Doctors in emergency rooms say they are busier since Obamacare began; hospitals struggle to handle extra patients

Nearly half of emergency-room doctors say their ERs have seen an increase in patients since health reform went into effect, and 86 percent say they expect the increase to continue, according to a poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians. Of the 1,845 completed surveys, 9 percent said ER visits had increased greatly and 37 percent said they had increased slightly. When asked what they think will happen over the next three years, 41 percent said visits will increase greatly and 45 percent said they will increase slightly. (ACEP graphic)

“Dr. Jay Kaplan, a member of ACEP’s board of directors, said he wasn’t
surprised by the findings given the large influx or Medicaid enrollees
and the difficulty in locating primary-care doctors who will see those
patients,” Paul Demko reports for Modern Healthcare. Kaplan told him, “When people get insurance, they feel like they deserve
healthcare. When they deserve health care, and there’s
nobody else they can see, they come to us.”

77 percent of respondents
said their ER is not prepared
for an increase in patients

But some hospitals say many patients are going to the ER for ailments that are not emergencies, Laura Ungar reports for The Courier-Journal. Lewis Perkins, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer at Louisville’s Norton Hospital, said the emergency room is seeing 100 more patients per month, an increase of 12 percent. “We’re seeing patients who probably should be seen at our
(immediate-care centers),” he told Ungar. “And we’re seeing
this across the system.”

ER visits at the University of Louisville Hospital are up 18 percent, while Dr. Ryan Stanton of Lexington, president of the Kentucky chapter of the ER physicians’ group, said ER services are up 7.5 percent in that city. He told Ungar, “It’s a perfect storm here. We’ve given
people an ATM card in a town with no ATMs.” (Read more)

Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News reports that a study in Massachusetts following its Obamacare-like expansion showed an initial surge in ER use followed by a decline over several years. Hospital officials around the country told him that the biggest impact of the expansion of Medicaid is that patients can now go to a primary-care doctor instead of the emergency room for routine care.

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