American Elephants

Emergency Room Use Goes Up. Democrats Mystified. by The Elephant's Child

Headline in the Wall Street Journal: “ER Visits Rise Despite Health Law”

Despite? Should say “ER Visits Rise Because of Health Law”

When RomneyCare was enacted in Massachusetts, much of the reason was to cut down on emergency room use. Emergency room use went up. Why is anyone surprised? Stuff doesn’t always happen during regular office hours. Everybody knows that.

You have stupid accidents or get sick in the evenings and on weekends. As the parent of an accident-prone kid, I can attest to that. And every time we have gone to the emergency room, there was someone in the next bed who had a little ringworm, or pink eye, or something else that was definitely not an emergency. Although American medicine does not suffer in general from the wait times of other countries (or the VA), instant appointments are usually not available. As the phone tree at your doctor’s office probably tells you “if this is a medical emergency, hang-up and call 911.”

But now, you theoretically have vast new numbers of newly insured, who can now go to the emergency room because they don’t have to pay for it themselves.

Emergency room doctors could have told the Democrats that emergency room use was largely patients who had insurance— not the uninsured—even before the health law took effect.  The Democrats who designed the 2010 Affordable Care Act expected to save money because they were sure the law would reduce unnecessary care. There are a lot of other things yet to come that they expected would reduce costs that are only going to add to expense.

Emergency-room physicians say they are seeing a rise in visits since Jan. 1 of this year, when expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act took effect.  Forty-six percent of emergency rooms say the volume of patients has increased, while only 27 percent say it has remained the same. Seventy-seven percent say their emergency department is not adequately prepared for significant increases in patient volume.

A spokesperson for HHS said it was too soon to draw conclusions, and they cannot speak to the long-term effects “of expanded coverage, which will be shaped by our continuing efforts to help people use their new primary care and preventive care benefits and to invest in innovative approaches aimed at improving our nation’s system of primary care.” Excellent bureaucrat-speak.

Massachusetts Care ER visits rose an estimated 2.2% a year through September 2009. In Oregon which expanded Medicaid coverage in 2008, ER visits rose over 40% over 18 months. In Napa, Calif. St. Joseph Health Queen of the Valley Medical Center is putting patients in the hallways on a regular basis due to ER crowding. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) a former OB-GYN said he wasn’t surprised, “It was a specious argument that the law wold reduce ER use.

Another proof that Democrats just don’t get incentives. The more  you make things free or low cost, the more they will be used. And that will really throw a monkey wrench into your best-laid plans.


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