Three-quarters of emergency physicians say they've seen ER patient visits surge since Obamacare took effect — just the opposite of what many Americans expected would happen.
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.
A major reason that hasn't happened is there simply aren't enough primary care physicians to handle all the newly insured patients, says ACEP President Mike Gerardi, an emergency physician in New Jersey.
"They don't have anywhere to go but the emergency room," he says. "This is what we predicted. We know people come because they have to."
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