HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Who Uses the ER?

The New York Times reports today on a study showing that the overcrowding that occurs in emergency rooms does not result from an increasing number of insured patients.   

It is often said that emergency rooms are crowded because of the disproportionate number of uninsured people using them. But data based on telephone surveys and in-person interviews, published on April 14 in The Annals of Emergency Medicine, tell a different story. The number of uninsured people nationwide rose to 15.7 percent in 2004 from 15.4 percent in 1995. Yet in that period, the proportion of uninsured people using emergency rooms declined.

The 26 percent increase in the number of visits in the period was largely caused by an increase in the number of people with private doctors who sought emergency room care. The authors suggest several reasons, among them an aging population, a growing number of time-sensitive medical treatments that can be performed only in an E.R., complications from medical and surgical treatments and the difficulty of obtaining a timely appointment with a private physician. . . .

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