ObamaCare was billed as the solution to many healthcare industry problems, including curbing the number of patients who use hospital emergency rooms as primary care or non-emergency needs. Two years later, emergency visits are rising because of the Affordable Care Act.
A new survey of emergency room doctors found that 3 in 4 reported an increase in patient visits since January 2014 – a significant rise from a year earlier when less than half of doctors reported an increase.
The problem is that newly insured Medicaid recipients under ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion can’t find doctors willing to accept their ObamaCare plans and are turning back to the ER to meet their needs.
This isn’t new news to the Administration. A report last year by the Health and Human Services watchdog inspector general found that more than half of providers listed in Medicaid managed-care plans couldn’t schedule appointments for enrollees. The median wait-time for those who could was two weeks, but more than 1 in 4 had patients had wait times of more than a month for an appointment. There goes the grand plan to ease overcrowding of emergency rooms.
Last year about this time, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called ObamaCare a “work in progress,” hinting that unintended consequences would be ironed out over time. Too bad the exact opposite is happening. A year ago, ER visits were rising but by as much as this year.
USA Today reports:
A poll released today by the American College of Emergency Physicians shows that 28% of 2,099 doctors surveyed nationally saw large increases in volume, while 47% saw slight increases. By contrast, fewer than half of doctors reported any increases last year in the early days of the Affordable Care Act.
Such hikes run counter to one of the goals of the health care overhaul, which is to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by getting more people insured through Medicaid or subsidized private coverage and providing better access to primary care.
Experts cite many root causes. In addition to the nation's long-standing shortage of primary care doctors — projected by the federal government to exceed 20,000 doctors by 2020 — some physicians won't accept Medicaid because of its low reimbursement rates. That leaves many patients who can't find a primary care doctor to turn to the ER — 56% of doctors in the ACEP poll reported increases in Medicaid patients.
Some people who have been uninsured for years don't have regular doctors and are accustomed to using ERs, even though they are much more expensive. A 2013 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says going to an ER when a primary care visit would suffice costs $580 more for each visit.
ER volumes are likely to keep climbing, and hospitals are working to adapt… Still, seven in 10 doctors say their emergency departments aren't ready for continuing, and potentially significant, increases in volume. Although the numbers should level off as people get care to keep their illnesses under control, Alagia says, "the patient demand will outstrip the supply of physicians for a while."
Who is really surprised by this? The laws of supply and demand predicted that doctor shortages for ObamaCare carriers would occur. First, fewer doctors are accepting Medicaid reimbursements in general as the government lowers its reimbursement rates – leading to a shortage. It’s a business decision because no one wants to work for less than the cost of business. Second, as the supply of doctors accepting ObamaCare dropped at the same time that the number of Medicaid recipients increased it automatically would lead to many customers fighting to see fewer doctors.
The President and ObamaCare’s supporters either were clueless about economics or assumed that individuals and doctors would work against their best interests. They must’ve expected that everything would just sort itself out. When you spend your career talking about the real world instead of living in it, you may think that a smart-enough person can solve all of the nation’s problems through more control and more taxes. You may even intend good, but being well-intentioned is no excuse for producing dumb policies. ObamaCare is case in point.