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Crowded Care: How Health Reform Might Affect Emergency Rooms

Crowded Care: How Health Reform Might Affect Emergency Rooms

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

How will health reform affect the nation's emergency rooms? The AP's Carla K. Johnson provides a glimpse of the future in this story, and it's crowded. She writes:

Emergency rooms, the only choice for patients who can't find care elsewhere, may grow even more crowded with longer wait times under the nation's new health law.

That might come as a surprise to those who thought getting 32 million more people covered by health insurance would ease ER crowding. It would seem these patients would be able to get routine health care by visiting a doctor's office, as most of the insured do.

But it's not that simple.

Johnson goes on to point out some of reasons we might see more ER crowding than already exists: not enough primary care doctors to serve the newly insured; an increase in Medicaid patients who are primary users of ERs, and the fact that many people who use ERs are already insured.

What are emergency rooms in your community expecting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Picture of Karen Weintraub

The Boston Globe wrote a similar story a few days ago showing how ER use went up as more people gained insurance. Interestingly, many of the reader comments with this story - as with other Globe stories that mention ER use - suggest that it is illegal immigrant who drive up the rate of ER use. I assume that their levels of use are actually lower than the general population's - because they can't afford the bill and because they're afraid of being outed as illegals.

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Thanks for sharing that, Karen and we're glad to have you as a new member! Here's a Los Angeles Times blog post from last year that rounds up some of the research on illegal immigrants' use of emergency room care:


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