Recession Could Underscore Challenges Facing Hospital EDs
Emergency departments could face more difficulty handling increased caseloads because of the rising number of unemployed and uninsured people using EDs for basic medical care, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, many EDs already were overcrowded before the recession, which has led to increasing job and insurance coverage loss.
The Times reports that there are no "firm figures" for the recent increase in ED visits but that the increase is not affecting all EDs. Some physicians said there has been a recent decline in visits.
A report released Tuesday by the American College of Emergency Physicians cautions that the ED system is in "serious condition."
In addition, a report by the American Hospital Association for July, August and September found a slight overall decrease in hospital visits, including ED visits, which resulted from people apparently attempting to avoid spending money on things that are not absolutely essential.
However, a 2006 survey found that the number of annual visits to EDs was 120 million, one-third higher than in 1996.
Worse To Come?
According to the Times, physicians in 2006 considered many EDs overwhelmed by the volume, and the recession could worsen ED overcrowding. EDs often are a lower-cost option for care for uninsured people because EDs are legally required to treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay.In addition, insured patients who have difficulty obtaining quick access to their physicians are using EDs for care, according to the Times (Abelson, New York Times, 12/9). 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.