Medi-Cal patients are swamping California emergency rooms in greater numbers than they did before the Affordable Care Act took effect, despite predictions that the health law would ease the burden on ERs.
Emergency room visits by people on Medi-Cal rose 75 percent over five years, from 800,000 in the first quarter of 2012 to 1.4 million in the last quarter of 2016, according to data recently released by the state’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The most dramatic increase began roughly around the time the Affordable Care Act expanded health care benefits in January 2014.
More than five million Californians have gained coverage under Obamacare, either through the expansion of Medi-Cal, California’s version of the Medicaid program for low-income people, or by purchasing health plans from Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange.
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Renee Hsia, professor of emergency medicine and health policy at UCSF; director of the policy lab for acute care & emergencies at UCSF; she’s an emergency physician who works at the San Francisco general hospital