Obamacare | The Government's Takeover of Health Care

Obamacare Increasing ER Visits in Kentucky

When Obamacare was rammed into law, supporters said one of the benefits would be reduced visits to emergency rooms because more people would have access to primary physicians.  The only problem is that there is a shortage of doctors, so adding 10-30 million to the health care system was only going to cause more congestion.  As one doctor put it, people were given an ATM card in a town with no ATM's.  In Kentucky, ER visits are on the rise, opposite of what was expected.

From USA Today:

It wasn't supposed to work this way, but since the Affordable Care Act took effect in January, Norton Hospital has seen its packed emergency room become even more crowded, with about 100 more patients a month.

That 12 percent spike in the number of patients — many of whom aren't actually facing true emergencies — is spurring the Louisville hospital to convert a waiting room into more exam rooms.

"We're seeing patients who probably should be seen at our (immediate-care centers)," said Lewis Perkins, the hospital's vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer. "And we're seeing this across the system."

That's just the opposite of what many people expected under Obamacare, particularly because one of the goals of health reform was to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by expanding Medicaid and giving poor people better access to primary care.

Instead, many hospitals in Kentucky and across the nation are seeing a surge of those newly insured Medicaid patients walking into emergency rooms.

Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they've seen more visits since Jan. 1, and nearly nine in 10 expect those visits to rise in the next three years. Mike Rust, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, said members statewide describe the same trend.

Experts cite many reasons: A long-standing shortage of primary-care doctors leaves too few to handle all the newly insured patients. Some doctors won't accept Medicaid. And poor people often can't take time from work when most primary care offices are open, while ERs operate round-the-clock and by law must at least stabilize patients.

Plus, some patients who have been uninsured for years don't have regular doctors and are accustomed to using ERs, even though it is much more expensive.

"It's a perfect storm here," said Dr. Ryan Stanton of Lexington, president of the Kentucky chapter of the ER physician group."We've given people an ATM card in a town with no ATMs."

Expect ER visits to only increase under Obamacare, despite what the law says it's going to do.

The Loyal Opposition is a contributing editor for Habledash.

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