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Will health reform help ER crowding?

People waiting outside of emergency room patient drop-off at a hospital

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Today starts the annual conference of ER doctors. And the American College of Emergency Physicians has a lot to talk about. One of the main topics under the microscope, of course, will be health-care reform and how it could affect emergency rooms. Ashley Milne-Tyte has more.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: We hear a lot about the uninsured using emergency rooms for routine care. Dr. Angela Gardner says that's a myth. She's president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. She says the vast majority of people who come to the ER need urgent care that regular doctors can't provide. Cutting the number of people in the ER is not the answer to cutting costs as she says some lawmakers think.

Dr. Angela Gardner: The truth is all of emergency-care spending in America is only 3 percent of the total yearly health-care spending.

She says the overcrowding in the emergency room is really a symptom of something else. Hospitals don't have enough beds to accommodate ER patients needing follow-up care and processing takes too long. She says although affordable coverage is necessary, it won't solve the crowding.

Since Massachusetts adopted universal health care, trips to the emergency room are up seven percent.

I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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