The Checkup
9:00 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Are Fewer Uninsured People Visiting Maryland's Emergency Rooms?

Credit redwolfoz / Creative Commons

About a third of emergency room visits in Maryland could have been handled in a primary care setting. Will the Affordable Care Act change that... and, if so, when?

In September 2010, President Obama blamed some of America’s rising health care costs on the uninsured: "Each of us who have health insurance, spend about a thousand dollars of our premiums on somebody else’s care. What happens is, you don’t have health insurance, you go to the emergency room—you weren’t getting a checkup…something that might have been curable with some antibiotics isn’t caught…by the time you get to the hospital, it’s much more expensive."

The emergency room can’t turn that uninsured person away. So, we end up eating the cost, while the ER workers deal with the chaos. President Obama: "They’ve got to figure out how do they keep their doors open if they’re treating all these people coming in the emergency room."

So, will the Affordable Care Act ease the pressure on Maryland emergency rooms as more uninsured get insured and find primary care? And, if so, many uninsured are using the ER, is anyone targeting them there to divert them onto the health exchange? Reporter Lawrence Lanahan has the story.

Our series ‘The Checkup:  How Health Care Is Changing in Maryland’ is made possible by grants from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the Baltimore Association of Health Underwriters, and HealthCare Access Maryland.