According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18% of American adults said they visited the emergency room at least once in 2014, and approximately 6.5% said they visited a facility two or more times. The report, released on February 18, was based on a national survey done by CDC researchers.
The total number of emergency room visits was 136.3 million, 40.2 million were injury-related. 11.9% visits resulted in hospitalization, and 2.1% were transferred to another hospital (psychiatric or other). Anyone who has languished in an emergency room waiting room for hours will be surprised that 27.0% of patients were seen in less than 15 minutes. Women were more likely than men to visit an emergency room: approximately 20% of women said they visited an emergency room, compared to 16% of men. In addition, younger individuals were slightly more likely to visit an emergency room. In 2014, 20% of individuals 18 to 29 said they visited an emergency room at least once, the ER at least once, compared to 17% of those aged 30 to 44, and 17.5% of individuals aged ages 45 to 64.
The majority of adults (77%) who presented at an emergency room said they went because they felt that they had a serious medical condition; 12% said they went because their doctor’s office was closed, and 7% went because they didn’t have access to other healthcare providers. Because almost 8 million individuals gained health insurance from 2013 to 2014 as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the investigators examined whether there were changes in ER visits during this period. They found that, overall, emergency room visits among adults did not change during that period, but the percentage of adults who visited a facility two or more times decreased slightly, from 8% to 6%.
In the past, differences in emergency room utilization varied depending on type of insurance; individuals with private insurance were less likely to visit the emergency room than those with Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) or people who did not have health insurance. The researchers found that differences based on type of insurance persisted. In 2014, approximately 14% of adults with private insurance visited the emergency room, compared to 35% of adults with Medicaid and 16.5% of adults without insurance.
The researchers suggested that the high utilization of the emergency room among adults who are on Medicaid may be because this population is generally in poorer health than are individuals with private insurance or those who are uninsured. Adults on Medicaid were the most likely to note that their emergency room visit was due to the seriousness of their medical problems, compared to those with private insurance or those who were uninsured.