Decreased government funding and the rising number of uninsured are straining resources in the nation's network of safety net providers, according to a study of 10 urban areas released by healthcare experts at George Washington University in Washington. As the number of uninsured, estimated at 43.6 million Americans in 2002, continues to rise, emergency rooms are increasingly being used by patients who can be cared for by primary-care providers, the study said. The researchers also found that an estimated 42% of emergency room visits that didn't result in hospital admissions were from patients either with nonemergency conditions or emergency conditions that could have been treated by a primary-care doctor. The study also found that access to primary-care services in the communities were relatively good but access to specialty care was lacking. For instance, the study found that patients in six of the 10 communities had to wait between six months to a year to see a specialist. The locations included in the study are Atlanta; Boston; Detroit; Fairfax County, Va.; Lincoln, Neb.; Memphis, Tenn.; Phoenix; Queens, N.Y.; San Antonio and San Diego. -- by Tony Fong
Safety net strained by uninsured: study
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