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Even with Obamacare, patients will turn to the ER

To the editor: Given the nation's aging population and physician shortages, emergency visits will continue to increase despite Obamacare. ("Since Obamacare, L.A. County ER visits show hospitals in 'state of flux,'" Jan. 1)

In addition, as millions of Americans are added to Medicaid, many will not be able to get appointments with physicians. Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low that other physicians will not see them. These people will turn to the ER.

Emergency physicians are dedicated to reducing healthcare costs. However, as the article notes, the real costs of healthcare are in hospital admissions, not in emergency care.

A recent Rand Corp. report found that four in five people who contacted a primary care physician first were told to bypass their doctor's office and go directly to the ER. Emergency physicians are increasingly relied upon to evaluate and, if necessary, hospitalize the sickest and most complex patients.

Emergency departments are essential and must have adequate resources. This matters to everyone, because we are all a heartbeat away from needing emergency care.

Michael Gerardi, MD, Hackettstown, N.J.

The writer is president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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