Emergency Rooms and the Healthcare Crisis

One of the most oft-repeated arguments for health reform is to reduce costly and delayed trips to the emergency room by uninsured patients. But will that happen? The heaviest users of the ER (in proportion to their numbers) are Medicaid patients (perhaps because many doctors won’t accept them), and more than half of the people who gain insurance under the Affordable Car Act will enroll in Medicaid.

What to Expect Under ACA

While the increased demand for services may turn some people to concierge doctors, many more are likely to turn to the emergency room when they cannot get their needs met at doctors’ offices.[1] If, say, only one-third of those newly insured turn to the emergency room because of inadequate primary care supply, that would equal between­ 39 ­million ­and­ 41­ million ­additional­ emergency­ room­ visits­ every­ year.

A Better Approach

To protect the institutions that deliver care to our most vulnerable populations, we need a dedicated flow of funds that rises and falls with the objective need. One source of funds is the money represented by unclaimed tax credits. These funds could be redirected to the safety net institutions in the areas where the uninsured live to provide a source of funds in case they cannot pay their own medical bills.

For details, please see my Independent Institute book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.


1. John C. Goodman, “Emergency Room Visits Likely to Increase under ACA,” National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 709, June 18, 2010, http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/ba709.pdf.

[Cross-posted at Psychology Today]

John C. Goodman is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, President of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research, and author of the Independent books Priceless, and A Better Choice.
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