Poll finds Medicaid recipients still choosing ER visits over primary or urgent care

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Medicaid patients are still visiting emergency rooms rather than primary care or urgent care physicians, according to a poll  released Monday by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

More than half of 2,098 doctors surveyed (56 percent) said that the number of Medicaid patients visiting emergency rooms has increased during the past year.

The ACEP poll also reported a sharp increase in the volume of emergency room patients since the Affordable Care Act insurance coverage mandate took effect. About 75 percent of doctors surveyed saw an overall increase in the volume of ER patients; 28 percent reported a significant rise in the number of emergency patients.

The study writers said in a prepared statement that the statistics were evidence that efforts by policymakers and health insurance providers to drive Medicaid patients out of emergency departments and into primary care are not working.

Those findings arrive at a crucial time in the debate over Medicaid expansion in Alabama. Democratic legislators continue to urge Gov. Robert Bentley to expand Medicaid. Senate Democrats pledged to shut down the rest of the Legislative Session with filibusters on every bill in protest to a resolution passed by Republican leaders opposing Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Tripp Pittman, who sponsored the Senate resolution, told Yellowhammer News that he and other leaders harbored deep concerns about raising the number of people receiving public assistance.

“This resolution expresses my resolve to be fiscally responsible and protect taxpayer funds,” Pittman said. “Medicaid reform legislation has already been put in place, and we need to measure the outcome of those reforms before rashly expanding Medicaid. Right now, we simply can’t afford to expand Medicaid.”

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