Hospital Emergency Departments Treat Increased Number of Uninusred Patients, Report Finds
Uninsured patients are "flooding" U.S. hospital emergency departments and in many cases seek routine care that they "should get elsewhere," according to a report released on Monday by the National Association of Community Health Centers, Reuters/Yahoo! News reports. According to the report, the number of visits to hospital EDs increased to 110.2 million in 2002 from 89.8 million in 1998, as the number of operational EDs decreased by 15%. The report, which examined data provided to HHS by about 1,000 federally funded community health centers in the United States, also found that in 2003 the number of uninsured patients who received emergency care at the centers increased by 11%. "Some health centers are experiencing an explosion of uninsured patients as high as 73%," the report said. The report attributed the trends to a decrease in the number of physicians who accept patients enrolled in Medicaid, as well as a "weakened economy and state budget cuts."
Dr. Monica Sweeney, vice president of medical affairs at New York-based Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center, said, "What this report reveals are the very serious holes in our health care system that are getting bigger." She added, "I see evidence of this every day at our health center, where uninsured patients are lining up at the door. Many of the patients I see waited longer than they should have before coming to see a doctor because they didn't have insurance or worried about how much the care would cost" (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 8/9). The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.