Insufficient primary care = overcrowded emergency departments

A report in American Medical News debunks the idea that the nation’s uninsured crowd the nation’s emergency departments.  It has been known for some time that most of the patients who visit EDs have insurance.  But one quote is telling:

“A lot of times there are things that could simply wait to be seem by their primary care physician,” [Dr. Bret Nicks, assistant medical director at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center’s emergency department in Winston-Salem, N.C.], said, but these patients might have trouble getting a timely appointment with a physician or any appointment at all.

Lawmakers should be careful about embracing false assumptions, Dr. [Manya] Newton [, an emergency physician and University of Michigan professor] said. Laws to address problems that don’t exist or laws that ignore real problems could be the result. For example, steering ED patients with minor ailments to primary care physicians won’t work if the area has a doctor shortage, he [sic] said.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  But it will get better.  Primary care will rebound because there is no other alternative if we want a workable health care system.  For the moment, however, the chickens have come home to roost.

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