The uninsured, it’s said, use emergency rooms for primary care. That’s expensive and ineffective. Once they’re insured, they’ll have regular doctors. Care will improve; costs will decline. Everyone wins. Great argument. Unfortunately, it’s untrue.
A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the insured accounted for 83 percent of emergency-room visits, reflecting their share of the population. After Massachusetts adopted universal insurance, emergency-room use remained higher than the national average, an Urban Institute study found. More than two-fifths of visits represented non-emergencies. Of those, a majority of adult respondents to a survey said it was “more convenient” to go to the emergency room or they couldn’t “get [a doctor’s] appointment as soon as needed.” If universal coverage makes appointments harder to get, emergency-room use may increase. [Robert J. Samuelson]
Well I could have told them the same thing. Throughout my military career and my subsequent experience with Naval Hospitals as a retiree – the Emergency Room is always full and the majority of cases are non-emergencies. Active duty personnel and their families of course do not pay for health care coverage and yet they use the E.R. casually when they could in fact have made an appointment to being seen during the day. For some it is more convenient for them to go to the E.R. after hours then to take off from work with a regular appointment – even though the E.R. wait is much longer.
This has always been one of my pet peeves in that I use the E.R. only for serious situations or when directed by the appointment line to go to the E.R. instead.
Though in part the same was for the regular sick call in the Navy in that a majority of people would show up for trivial health issues that could have been easily treated with over the counter medicine. When it is available and free people are more likely to use it – which is just common sense born out by my own experience. It took me ten years in the Navy before I visited a Navy Clinic for treatment. They asked me where the rest of my medical record was since they couldn’t believe it was my first time in. I am pretty sure I am in the minority of only using healthcare when actually needed.