Another Promise Broken: ER Visits up Under Obamacare

Justin Haskins Heartland Institute
Published May 20, 2015

Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) passage in 2010, President Barack Obama spent month after month traveling across the United States to reassure Americans the vast right-wing-manufactured conspiracy theories about the law weren’t true.

Contrary to claims by Republicans and conservative pundits, “If you like your doctor, you’re going to be able to keep your doctor,” Obama pledged at George Mason University.

“If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law,” stated the White House website.

However, once the ACA began to be enforced, it became apparent the Obama administration—not its pro-liberty critics—was the one spewing distortions. Thousands of Americans who did in fact want to keep their doctor or their health insurance plan found themselves pushed into more expensive policies, some of which were not accepted by their doctors.

The numerous problems resulting from Obamacare—the rising premiums, the inconvenience of the health insurance marketplace, and the problems thousands had to face when looking for new doctors after years of building relationships with the ones they preferred—were said to be necessary to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. More than 30 million people were without health insurance, and millions were forced to receive expensive treatment for routine problems at emergency rooms (ER) rather than at primary care facilities.

Obamacare may not have been a perfect proposal, its proponents acknowledged, but it is necessary to improve millions of lives.

“I think that it’s very important that we provide coverage for all people because if everybody’s got coverage, then they’re not going to the emergency room for treatment,” Obama said at a town hall forum in Rio Rancho, New Mexico in 2009.

But like the other failed promises made by the Obama administration, his pledge the passage of the ACA would result in fewer costly emergency room visits has yet to be fulfilled.

According to a poll conducted by Marketing General Incorporated for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), three-quarters of emergency physicians say ER visits are on the rise, a significant increase from one year ago.

Further, a press release by ACEP indicates over 50 percent of the physicians surveyed say the number of Medicaid patients going to the ER has increased as well.

ACEP says one of the reasons for the increase, which directly contradicts the promises made by the Obama administration, is wait times for patients looking to see primary care doctors has notably worsened. This isn’t surprising considering the ACA effectively added millions of insured patients to the health care marketplace without doing anything to increase the supply of doctors.

“There is strong evidence that Medicaid access to primary care and specialty care is not timely, leaving Medicaid patients with few options other than the emergency department,” said Dr. Orlee Panitch, chair of the Emergency Medicine Action Fund and an emergency physician for MEPHealth in Germantown, Maryland.  “In addition, states with punitive policies toward Medicaid patients in the ER may be discouraging low-income patients with serious medical conditions from seeking necessary care, which is dangerous and wrong.”

Obamacare’s failure to accomplish one of its most important goals—moving impoverished people out of emergency rooms and into primary care facilities—is further proof the ACA has been an utter disaster. Costs continue to rise, wait times have increased, patients have lost preferred doctors and health care plans, and the impoverished have continued to be stuck going to hospital emergency rooms instead of receiving the care of a primary care doctor.

Now, more than ever, it’s apparent the ACA needs to be repealed and replaced with legislation that will lower costs and improve the lives of all Americans without infringing individuals’ rights.

[Originally Published in the Washington Examiner]