An article in WSJ points out that ER visits are on the rise. This is the opposite of what was intended by the Affordable Care Act yet it is predictable for several reasons.
1. Primary Care doctors are already busy and already have a difficult time seeing sick patients urgently or on the same day. They send patients to the ER. This pattern will get worse because the ACA pays doctors more to do preventative care stuff like check cholesterol levels or order mammograms or do an Annual Exam. Primary Care doctors will therefore fill their schedules with the preventative care visits and have less time to see sick patients. The sick people will funnel to the ER more.
2. People with the exchange plans have limited options for a primary care physician. The networks are small and the “primary care” doctor may not be nearby. This might change over time, but I don’t think so. The local ER will be an option.
3. Most of the new insurance plans have a high deductible (which is good) and unless they go here they won’t be to afford to see their doctor so they will go to ER . Yes, the ER is much more expensive but in reality it is often “free” to the patient because they just don’t pay the bills. The ERs and hospitals are required to see all-comers no matter what.
Most of the effects of the ACA will be the opposite of what was intended.