Emergency room doctors busy, despite ACA

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Doctors responding to an American College of Emergency Physicians poll released May 4, 2015 report more patients are seeking emergency room treatment since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in 2014. One of the ACA selling points was to reduce ER trips, costs, and wait times by directing patients to primary care doctors, who focus more on preventing and managing chronic diseases.

“Before you have evidence, you can tell stories that go in either direction. You can imagine that expanding insurance could cause people to go to the emergency department more, or could cause them to go less,” said health economist Katherine Baicker, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management and C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, in a May 4 WHYY (Philadelphia) interview.

Baicker co-authored a 2014 study that found an increase in ER visits in Oregon after the state expanded its Medicaid program. “We found that when people had Medicaid, they went to the emergency room about 40 percent more often,” she said.