A troubling survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians has raised some eyebrows in the healthcare community. Three quarters of emergency room doctors report seeing an increase in ER visits over the last year, with 28% observing “large increases.”
You’ll likely remember that one of the key arguments in passing the Affordable Care Act was that many people who lacked health insurance were inefficiently seeking medical care through the emergency room, driving up medical costs for everyone else. The logical conclusion was therefore to expand coverage, give people access to primary care, and by keeping them out of the ER this would reduce costs for the entire system.
In a late 2012 blog post, we had highlighted that there appeared to be a troubling relationship between expanding preventive services and INCREASED medical spend. Although the benefits of preventive care may take years to measure, a clear short-term drawback appeared to be that it was driving a lot of expensive unnecessary care as false positives led to increased anxiety and testing.
Well, it appears another odd relationship may be emerging around healthcare access and ER usage – those who previously lacked coverage are utilizing their newfound access to gain entry into…the always accessible emergency room.
Is this relevant to employers? I think it is.
Many of our clients are seeing an increase in medical enrollment. Sure, some of it could be explained by the individual mandate, but this last OE period preceded the first wave of fines and many clients already mandated that employees show alternative coverage before allowing waivers.
The national conversation around healthcare is clearly driving more of an interest in healthcare even from those who had access previously. It’s a critical time for benefit managers and HR directors; communicate effectively and ensure you take hold of the healthcare narrative in your organization.