Hospitals struggle with increasing number of "non-emergency" ER visits due to Medicaid expansion

07/30/2014 08:41 PM

CYNTHIANA — The emergency rooms of Kentucky’s hospitals are facing a crisis of too many patients, but not because of an increase in illnesses, like the rest of the nation Kentucky saw an increase in non-emergency visits because more individuals have health insurance coverage.

In Kentucky, more than 330,000 people became Medicaid eligible when the state expanded the program on January 1. The expansion covers residents earning up to 138% of the federal poverty rate which is $15,856.

The problem is many of the patients now going to the emergency rooms are not actually facing a medical emergency. This is causing a strain at the state’s hospitals as ER doctors are treating an increasing number of patients for non-emergency care.

Sheila Currans, CEO of Harrison Memorial Hospital in Cynthiana, says that her hospital has had to move staff from other parts of the hospital into the ER to handle the increase in the number of patients.

“Unfortunately, the ACA didn’t create a support structure around the implementation of the ACA, and so what we have now is a system of more people seeking care, but residency programs which aren’t prepared to put more doctors out,” said Currans.

The 12 percent increase in emergency room visits is pretty consistent with the state average.


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