A survey completed by the American College of Emergency Physicians shows that emergency room visits have increased since January 1.
Approximately 46 percent of ER respondents noted an increase in patient visits and another 27 percent reported constant rates. Nearly a quarter of respondents reported decreased patient visits. According to the survey, the patient demographic is shifting toward fewer patients with private insurance but more patients with Medicaid coverage. The increase is also not restricted to certain states or any geographic area.
While proponents of the Affordable Care Act hoped that the law would decrease ER visits by expanding insurance coverage, studies of Oregon’s and California’s healthcare system overhauls in the last several years indicate that the expectation may have been unrealistic. At the same time, the survey suggests that the ACA has in fact played a role in the shifting numbers over the last three months.
The first and most significant reason is that coverage does not equal or lead to access. Many newly insured patients have little access to a primary care physician or clinic for regular care, either because they are not informed about their options or because PCPs in the area are already overwhelmed with volume. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the PCP-patient gap will reach 30,000 next year and continue growing after that.
Emergency care is equally difficult to access in many states. The American College of Emergency Physicians released their 2014 Report Card which gave 21 states an F rating in the “Access to Emergency Care” category.
That said, patients who do have access to emergency rooms – insured or uninsured – may choose the setting because they cannot be turned away; because they are experiencing potentially serious symptoms; or because they need immediate care when other providers are unavailable (that is, on evenings and weekends).
A potentially significant drawback of the ACEP’s survey is the limited number of respondents: many states had too few responses to register as a percentage of the total responses, and in the top participating state – California – only 10 percent of facilities submitted responses. This indicates a great deal of missing data that could impact the survey’s findings. In addition, the survey’s focus on only the first three months of 2014 makes it insufficient to make any far-reaching assumptions about continuing trends.
If ER visits continue to increase it could create greater demand for healthcare vendors to cover staffing and equipment shortages. PRN Funding’s healthcare factoring programs can prepare your healthcare company for future growth by giving you immediate access to working capital. Learn more about our healthcare factoring services and apply today to get started!