Limiting Non-Urgent ED Visits Won’t Curb Health Care Spending
According to a study published recently in Annals of Emergency Medicine, reducing non-urgent visits to emergency departments will generate little or no cost savings for the nation’s health care system. The study, entitled “A Novel Approach to Identifying Targets for Cost Reduction in the Emergency Department,” suggests the focus on eliminating “non-urgent” ED visits by insurance programs—both public and private—distracts from more promising ways to save money in hospital admissions.
In a disturbing trend, several states—most notably, Washington State—have attempted to bridge state budget shortfalls by denying payment for “unnecessary” ED visits. The basis for this bad policy is the assumption that non-urgent ED visits are a significant driver of growth in health care costs. The report appearing in the Annals publication disproves that assumption and undercuts the value of pursuing such policies.
In truth, emergency care amounts to only 2 percent of all health care spending in the United States, and emergency physicians provide a tremendous amount of care for the cost.