Hospitals and doctors have been closely watching to see how the insurance provided by the Affordable Care Act would affect patient volumes in emergency rooms. One hope was that people who previously didn’t have insurance and went to the ER for treatment would now go to a doctor’s office for treatment.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics reported a 20-percent drop in emergency patient visits for the first three months of the year, but Doctor Hans House says that was likely a seasonal change. “Since spring we’ve seen an increase in the number of patients at our own institution, at the University of Iowa, and speaking with my colleagues in Cedar rapids and the Quad Cities, they say they’re seeing a significant increase in their patients. So, that trend seems to have reversed,” House says.
A poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians showed 42-percent of doctors surveyed in the Upper Midwest found patient visits decreased in the first part of 2014 — but nationwide, almost half of doctors surveyed reported an increase. House doesn’t expect the increase in visits to slow. “When you give insurance to people who haven’t had it before, they go to the ER because they’ve got healthcare needs that aren’t being met,” House says. “The take home message here is we’ve got to be ready for more patients. That’s what we were expecting from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s what we’re seeing.”
A spokesperson for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics says quarterly numbers for emergency department visits were not yet finalized, but would be available at the beginning of June.