Ever since Obamacare was launched, doctors have seen a lot more patients visiting the emergency room, undermining one of the main selling points of President Obama’s health care law.
According to the “advertisement,” Obamacare was supposed to make the population a lot healthier, as people would rely more on primary physicians rather than on the emergency rooms.
However, according to a recent poll organized by the American College of Emergency Physicians, 3 out of 4 ER doctors confirmed an increased number of since January 2014, which is when Obamacare kicked in full force. More than 25 percent of the surveyed doctors said the surge in patients was significant, and almost half of them the increase was only slight.
What doctors fear the most is that hospital resources are not prepared for an excessive number of visits: 7 out of 10 physicians said their departments would be overwhelmed in the case of a significant increase in patient volume.
More primary care doctors needed
Leading cause of this issue is the lack of primary care doctors that can attend to the raising number of people who now benefit from health insurance. In this case, patients choose to turn to emergency rooms instead – which is exactly what Obamacare was supposed to help avoid.
Michael Gerardi, head of the American College of Emergency Physicians, explained that offering more people health care coverage does not automatically mean that will also have timely access to the medical care they are now entitled to.
Other causes for the crowded emergency rooms are the fact that some patients are used to going there for treatment, while others are unable to book an appointment with their doctors for daytime checkups because they have to work. Sometimes is just easier to show up at an emergency room instead of going through the process of making appointments.
Mr. President presented Obamacare as a plan to lower the high rate of emergency room visits, especially from people who were previously uninsured. Driving them to primary care doctors should’ve helped cut overall healthcare costs – mostly by encouraging people to do regular checkups, therefore catching health problems earlier; and by redirecting patients to less expensive care.
According to the Health and Human Services Department, the one responsible of overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), it is difficult to get patients to change their habits, but it is working towards expanding primary care options for them.
A lot of newly-insured patients do not know how to best use the new health coverage. This is where the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services step in, encouraging them to stop using emergency rooms for non-emergency care, and providing them with useful information.
Also part of the Affordable Care Act is the initiative of investing in training more doctors and nurses. Officials are focusing especially on the communities where access to quality is lacking, and affordable care is still foreign to many people.
Cutting cost of uncompensated care is not enough
More than 2,000 doctors responded to the poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians in March. Almost a quarter of the responses came from doctors and physicians from California, Texas and New York. A large majority of the respondents said more Medicaid patients are taking visits to the ER.
Millions of people enlisted for Medicaid, the federal-state health care initiative for the poor. However, too few doctors are willing to accept seeing Medicaid patients, considering the relatively low payment the program offers.
Obamacare, however, covers ER visits, which means that a lot of people will choose to just show up at a hospital instead of going to their doctors.
Despite the heavy criticism that The Affordable Care Act has received since its full launch in 2014, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell gave a speech on Monday crediting Obamacare for a cut of more than $7 billion in 2014 in the department of uncompensated care. This fund deals with the cost of care that hospitals offer to people who do not have health insurance or are underinsured.
According to analysts, it’s not enough to help in the decrease of uncompensated costs – it is also important to realize that the government immense sums of money to achieve this result. It’s not enough to replace “one free-rider program” with another, if that means the federal spending increases beyond imagination on government-subsidized insurance.
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