The Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) is driving higher volume in the emergency room at the same time it creates conditions resulting in lower availability of providers, according to a pair of new studies published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The end result: longer waits that frustrate patients and a patient load that clinicians may be hard pressed to keep pace with. While the studies were focused on Illinois and Massachusetts, the results mirror anecdotal reports from across the country. In Illinois, the researchers found that the average monthly ED volume increased by 5.7% after ACA implementation. In the Massachusetts study, researchers asked emergency directors about ED characteristics in 2006, 2009, and 2015; they learned that “there were significantly reduced odds of consultant availability in 2014 compared with 2005” for specialty consults, including general surgery, neurology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, plastic surgery, and psychiatry. Given that some of these are well within the range of services available in urgent care, it seems evident that higher utilization of urgent care could unclog the bottlenecks reflected in these studies.
New Data Show ACA Is Especially Hard on Emergency Rooms