Saturday | April 18, 2015
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Obamacare boosts ER patients, wait times

Five hours, 26 minutes. That’s the average length of time, according to the California Healthcare Foundation, that emergency room patients in California must wait before being admitted to a hospital as an inpatient.

One of the promised benefits of the Affordable Care Act was that it would reduce such agonizingly long emergency room waits by expanding the federal-state Medicaid program — known in California as MediCal — and providing the low-income uninsured access to primary care.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. A recent survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians suggests that President Obama’s health care “reform” actually has had a deleterious effect on the nation’s emergency rooms.

Indeed, nearly half of emergency physicians surveyed by ACEP reported a rise in ER visits since Jan. 1, when expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare took effect. More ER visits mean more crowded waiting rooms.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act suggest it is “a work in progress,” as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, described the law last month.

They are persuaded that Obamacare’s unintended consequences will be corrected, including, presumably, increasingly crowded emergency rooms.

However, nearly nine of 10 surveyed emergency physicians expect emergency visits to further increase over the next three years. And more than three-quarters told ACEP that they fret their ERs are inadequately prepared for significant increases.

“Many physicians do not accept Medicaid patients,” explained Dr. Alex Rosenau, ACEP president, “because Medicaid pays so low.” So, he said, “(w)hen people can’t get appointments with physicians, they will seek care in emergency departments.”

States like California that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare saw the biggest increases in the volume of Medicaid emergency patients, according to ACEP. That’s the last thing California needed, with the lowest number of emergency rooms per capita of all the states.

Dr. Rosenau’s group urges Congress to hold hearings to address the unintended consequences Obamacare has had on the nation’s emergency rooms.

We’d certainly like to hear how Rep. Pelosi would ease overcrowding and shorten wait times.

— From the Orange County Register


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