Insurance and the Uninsured
Higher-income people with a regular source of health care increased their use of hospital emergency departments by nearly 8% from 1996 to 2003, the most significant contribution to a 26% rise in ED visits during the same period, according to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
The authors maintain that ED visits by uninsured people actually declined over the study period, counter to other research findings and media reports. Researchers note that many factors contribute to the increase, including the growth and aging of the U.S. population.
In addition, the authors write that a lack of prompt access to care, changes in the kinds of medical treatments patients are undergoing and other issues also have driven the increase in ED visits, adding that attributing ED crowding to the uninsured "oversimplifies a complex problem" (Weber et al., Annals of Emergency Medicine, August 2008).