One in five people
in the United States visit an emergency room every year, and most of
them have health insurance of some kind, according to a U.S. government
survey released on Wednesday.
The survey contradicts a common perception
that emergency rooms are packed with uninsured people and illegal
immigrants. It also rejects some claims that people are using the
emergency department for routine care -- just 10 percent of visits were
for non-urgent causes.
approximately one in five persons in the U.S. population had one or more
emergency department visits in a 12-month period," the report from the
National Center for Health Statistics reads.
the under-65 population, the uninsured were no more likely than the
insured to have had at least one emergency department visit in a
Garcia and colleagues at the center used two large national surveys of
healthcare use in 2007 for their study.
1996, demand for emergency services in the United States has been
rising," they wrote.
number of emergency departments (EDs) across the country has decreased,
the number of ED visits has increased. As a result, EDs are experiencing
higher patient volume and overcrowding, and patients seeking care are
experiencing longer wait times," they added.
national health care costs continue to rise and policymakers become
increasingly interested in ways to make the health care system more
efficient, it is important to understand the characteristics of those
individuals who use EDs -- often in place of other sources of ambulatory
They found that the more
income people had, the less likely they were to ever visit an emergency
room. People over 75 and blacks were the most likely to visit emergency
The American College of
Emergency Physicians published a survey this month showing that 61
percent of emergency doctors surveyed believe U.S. healthcare reform
will send even more people to emergency departments.
Only 1 percent of the 1,800 doctors surveyed
thought visits would decrease. And 47 percent said the reforms signed
into law in March would worsen overcrowding in emergency rooms.
"It's important to note the report finds
that having a usual source of medical care, such as a primary care
provider, does not affect the number of times people under age 65 visit
the emergency department," Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American
College of Emergency Physicians, said of Wednesday's report.