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Oct 6 09 ACEP: 2/3 of ED docs are seeing more patients and increased wait times due to MA “health reform”

Patients, Docs Rip ED Waits in Massachusetts

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 6, 2009


Nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts emergency physicians report more patients are seeking emergency care as result of state healthcare reforms, and nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts residents say their ED wait times have increased or remained the same, according to two polls released today by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"This is clear evidence of what emergency physicians across the country have been warning—that universal health coverage alone will not solve the problems facing emergency patients," says ACEP President Angela Gardner, MD. "We support universal coverage, but national healthcare reform must address the severe problems facing the nation’s emergency patients, such as dangerous delays in care."

In an ACEP Internet poll of 138 Massachusetts emergency physicians conducted last month, 51% of respondents report patient acuity levels have remained the same since the Massachusetts mandate went into effect. More than 20% of physicians report higher acuity levels, and more than 27% report lower acuity levels. In addition, 62% of emergency physicians said that "boarding"—or holding—admitted patients in emergency departments has increased or stayed the same since the Massachusetts mandate.

A separate ACEP-commissioned telephone survey of 1,002 healthcare consumers in Massachusetts, conducted last month by Harris Interactive, shows that 47% had been to an ED in the past year—either for themselves or with a family member. While 90% of Massachusetts residents with health insurance report being satisfied with their health insurance coverage, 84% say ED care should be a priority for healthcare reforms at the national level.

"The idea that emergency departments are filled with people who don’t need to be there is simply not true, and these polls confirm that," Gardner says. "People will always need emergency care. The medical realities of a growing elderly population also tell us that."