Who’s visiting the ER? Fewer uninsured people

Are uninsured patients clogging the nation’s emergency rooms?

A new report seems to challenge that idea. It shows that the percentage of uninsured adults who used the ER two or more times a year fell by about 2 percentage points between 2013 and 2014, during the first year the health insurance exchanges of the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

A report by the National Health Statistics Reports, an office of the U.S. Department of Human Services, says that 16.6 percent of uninsured Americans visited the ER two times or more in 2014, down from 18.5 percent in 2014.

The highest group of ER users during that time was Medicaid patients. But those numbers are declining as well, from 37.7 percent who visited an ER two or more times a year in 2013 to 35.2 percent in 2014.

By contrast, the number of insured Americans who visited an ER two or more times edged up from 14.0 percent to 14.3 percent during the same period.

About one in five U.S. adults visit the emergency room each year, a percentage that has held steady in recent years.

 “ER use, whether appropriate or inappropriate, is an expensive form of the care,” the report notes.

The most common reason people visit emergency rooms is not because of the seriousness of the problem, but because the doctor’s office or clinic was not open, the report said.

The study does not give raw figures of ER visits, but those figures are available from the Centers for Disease Control, which says that the nation’s ERs had 136.3 million visits in 2011. Of that, the number of injury-related visits is about 40.2 million, or about 30 percent.


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