The WSJ Health Care Blog today reports that ER visits are at an all time high at a time when the number of emergency rooms is *shrinking.*
What’s going on?
While conventional wisdom suggests that the uninsured are crowding the ER, the data suggest that’s not what’s going on. The uninsured (comprised in this survey of those who paid themselves, and those who didn’t pay) accounted for between 17% and 18% of ER traffic in both 1996 ( see this report) and 2006.
A recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine noted a similar trend, and found that the biggest rise came from well-off people who typically get their care at a doctor’s office. The real problem, the authors suggested, isn’t the lack of care for the uninsured, but the inability of the insured to get prompt care at the doctor’s office.