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Are emergency room visits up under Obamacare?

O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif., is encouraging uninsured patients to sign up for coverage in the emergency room.
Sarah Varney for NPR
O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif., is encouraging uninsured patients to sign up for coverage in the emergency room.

A poll of emergency room doctors, released Monday, finds that visits to the ER have increased since January 2014, when the Affordable Care Act came into effect.

A poll of emergency room doctors, released Monday, finds that visits to the ER have increased since January 2014, when the Affordable Care Act came into effect.

Reducing ER visits, costs, and wait times was one of the main arguments by Obamacare’s supporters in pushing for the legislation.

It’s not the first indication that ER visits may go up after Medicaid expands. A Harvard study looked at Oregon’s expanding Medicaid pool from 2008-2011 and found a similar jump.

Health policy experts are divided on the reasons why. Proponents of the health care reform law say that there’s pent-up demand, and with time, the ER numbers will fall. Opponents see it as a sign of Obamacare’s failure.

The latest poll tracked physician perception, not the statistics kept by hospitals, but Oregon’s experience may be instructive for other states and the federal exchanges.

How well is Obamacare working to control ER visits?

2015 ACEP Poll Affordable Care Act Research Results

Guests:

Katherine Baicker, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of a 2014 study that found a jump in ER visits following Oregon’s Medicaid expansion.

Dylan Roby, Director of Health Economics and evaluation Research at the UCLA Center for Health Policy

Yevgeniy Feyman, fellow at the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute

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