Despite the rise of seemingly everything healthcare-related, one thing has been dwindling: emergency rooms. The American Hospital Association says the country has 650 fewer emergency rooms than it did 20 years ago.
That’s no reflection of demand — emergency room visits in the U.S. actually have shot up 35% from 1999 to 2009 — but instead is the byproduct of numerous hospitals shuttering their doors. More heavily affected have been hospitals and ERs serving the poor — the New York Times reports that “so-called safety-net hospitals that serve disproportionate numbers of Medicaid patients and hospitals serving a large share of the poor were 40 percent more likely to close,” according to one study.
The problem is particularly worrisome with implementation of the Affordable Care Act right around the corner. Various studies and hospital CEOs say that private practitioners likely won’t be able to shoulder the flood of formerly uninsured patients, which in turn will lead to many showing up to ERs attempting to seek regular care.