Poll links Affordable Care Act to rising emergency room visits

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The American College of Emergency Physicians released an opinion poll today announcing a link between more emergency room visits and the Affordable Care Act .  

Approximately 1,850 emergency room doctors, 39 from Missouri and 15 from Kansas, and others from across the country were polled over the past few weeks while they attended a conference in Washington, D.C.

They were asked several questions, one of them being if the volume of emergency room patients has increased since January 1 of 2014.

"On the average, more than half of our ER's are seeing an increase in the number of patients just in the first three months so just through the new implementation of the affordable care act," said Hans House, a board member of the American College of Emergency Physicians and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Iowa.

House believes the Affordable Care Act is, in part, the reason.

He also said states that have expanded Medicaid coverage have higher numbers. Although neither Kansas nor Missouri have expanded that coverage, some metro emergency rooms are reflecting a higher volume of visits.

Truman Medical Center has increased from more than 71,000 patients in 2012 to 74,000 in 2013. St. Luke's Hospital has treated 325 more patients this year than the same time last year. And the University of Kansas Hospital has doubled its numbers in the last seven years to 54,000 patients this fiscal year.

At the University of Kansas Hospital, its chief medical officer agrees that the numbers are going up. He just thinks it's too soon to link it to the ACA.

"The thing that leads more than anything else is the fact that the population just plain and simple is getting older and there are more and more people with chronic diseases," said Lee Norman.

He also says there is a need for more doctors - or else - all hospitals will be in trouble.

“The number of primary care physicians is not increasing as fast as the demand is and we are going to be tens of thousands of primary care physicians short," Norman said.

He said the University of Kansas Hospital plans to bring in 50 more doctors in the next 3-5 years to meet the growing demand.

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