Emergency Departments Across California Seeing Surge in Patient Visits
The number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries who sought care at Ventura County emergency departments for conditions that did not require hospital admission increased by 35% from 2005 to 2009, according to data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the Ventura County Star reports.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Reasons for Increased Visits
Ventura County might be seeing an increase in ED visits among Medi-Cal beneficiaries because many California physicians do notÂ accept Medi-Cal because of low government reimbursement rates. State officials say California's Medicaid reimbursement rate is the 45th lowest nationwide.
Although Medi-Cal beneficiaries might be unable to find a health care provider willing to accept their coverage, federal law requires EDs to provide treatment to all residents.
In addition, hospital officials and health care providers say more people have enrolled in Medi-Cal in recent years because of the recession and high unemployment rates.
New System on Tap for Ventura County
Some time next year, Ventura County plans to replace its current state-administered Medi-Cal system with a locally run health plan that will operate as a public HMO.
The new system aims to shift routine care to physicians' offices and clinics, leading some health officials to predict that ED visits among Medi-Cal beneficiaries will decrease in the county (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 9/18).
Riverside, San Bernardino County Also Seeing Uptick in ED Visits
In related news, the nine busiest EDs in Riverside and San Bernardino counties reported double-digit increases in patient visits between 2007 and 2009, according to state data, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
The increases stem from the region's shortage of primary care physicians, according to local ED directors. About two-thirds ED visits occur when clinics and medical offices are closed for the day.
Many hospitals have responded to the flood of ED patients by opening urgent care clinics, remodeling EDs and improving patient flow processes (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.