Among the predicted benefits of the Affordable Care Act was that people would stop using this last resort care.
When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, one of the advantages was supposed to be that health insurance policies would reduce the use of hospital emergency rooms. That said, despite the fact that many millions of people are now covered, they’re still headed to the ER.
This is problematic as emergency room medical care is among the most expensive types of health care.
The belief was that because people would have health insurance policies, they would be using more preventive medicine. They would be receiving more early diagnoses and would start treating conditions earlier. This, in turn, would reduce the need for last minute emergency care. However, new data is showing that people are not using emergency rooms any less than they were before they received their insurance coverage.
People are indeed taking advantage of a larger amount of preventive care. That is going as predicted, according to the recent data. However, they are also still using the emergency rooms as much as they always were.
This health insurance policies trend is in opposition to a prior study conducted by the same economists.
In the earlier insurance trends study, the economists determined that when people are covered, they have more health care services. This means that they will visit their doctors, receive prescriptions, have the flu shot and go to the hospital when necessary.
That said, University of California San Francisco Emergency Department Doctor Renee Hsia explained that many of her patients have coverage. Dr. Hsia stated that “We have noticed that as our patient population gets older and frailer and we have more complex diseases, there are higher-acuity things presenting to the ED.”
Dr. Hsia also explained that people with health insurance continue to receive ER care because they can’t get family doctor’s appointments there. Sometimes family doctors have actually recommended they go to the ER.
One of the most recent research paper’s co-authors, Kate Baicker, a Harvard economist, explained that it’s important to understand the true impact of health insurance policies. Having coverage makes ER use affordable. People hadn’t been going while uninsured because it was expensive. Now that they can afford it, they’re going.