NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Health Reform Will Make ERs More Crowded

May 2, 2011

Hospital emergency rooms (ERs), the theory goes, get overcrowded because people without health insurance have no place else to go.  But that's not the view of the doctors who staff those emergency departments, says NPR.

The real problem, according to a new survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians, isn't caused by people who don't have insurance -- it's caused by people who do, but still can't find a doctor to treat them.

  • A full 97 percent of ER doctors who responded to the survey said they treated patients "daily" who have Medicaid (the federal-state health plan for the low-income), but who can't find a doctors who will accept their insurance.
  • At the same time, 97 percent of ER doctors also said they treat patients daily who have private insurance and primary care doctors, but whose primary care doctors sent them to the emergency room for care.
  • Apparently that's because the patient's need for care arose during a time when that private doctor's office was closed.
  • Since these insured patients are more -- not less -- likely to use the emergency department, 89 percent of physicians in the survey said they believe the number of visits to emergency rooms will increase as the new health law is implemented.

Source: Julie Rovner, "Emergency Room Doctors Say Health Law Will Make ER Crowding Worse," NPR, April 28, 2011.

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