About 1 in 4 Americans says his or her medical conditions has worsened after postponing emergency room treatment, according to a survey released Tuesday.
The poll, commissioned by the American College of Emergency Physicians, found Americans delay visiting an ER because they don't think their health insurance will cover the costs.
At the same time, more than 50% of respondents are paying more for their insurance compared to last year, while another 20% said they are paying “much more.”
“Insurance companies have become adept at shifting cost from themselves onto patients,” said Dr. Jay Kaplan, president of the ACEP. Kaplan said a dramatic rise in high deductible plans in the last decade has caused more patients to avoid getting care in an ER.
About 40% of Americans under 65 were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan as of March 2016, up from 25.3% in 2010, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview Survey.
The survey, which included the responses of 1,822 registered voters and was conducted by Morning Consult, asked Americans nearly 20 questions about their insurance coverage.
Kaplan said the results provide important feedback for Congress and state lawmakers on the impact of the Affordable Care Act and changes that can be made to improve cost of care.
Among the survey's findings was that 24% of respondents has to stop seeing their physician because they were no longer in their plan's network.
Kaplan said this points to a rising trend among ER physicians who pull out of insurance networks because they feel they aren't being fairly reimbursed for their services. He said he advocates for insurance companies to give providers transparent data that shows how they determine costs for services, pointing to the independent database Fair Health as an effective example.
Emergency room physicians are also more negatively affected by high deductible plans than other specialties because they must take all patients admitted to the ER under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), Kaplan said.
Although ER physicians account for only 4% of U.S. doctors, they provide services for 28% of acute care visits, 50% of Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program visits and 67% of acute care visits for uninsured patients, according to the ACEP.
Despite the strain insurers are placing on ER docs, Kaplan said high deductible plans and premiums hurt patients most so changes should be made to help them. “The key is patients first,” Kaplan said. “Let's have them stop worrying about cost, and make sure they get the best care and feel secure.”