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For many patients, the ER is the right place

To the editor: A survey of emergency physicians offers a more mixed picture of what is happening in ERs than what was reported here about L.A. County. Nearly half saw increases in patient visits since January, and 86% expect increases over the next three years. ("Since Obamacare, ER visits down at L.A. County public hospitals," Aug. 21)

More than three-quarters say their emergency departments are not ready for those increases.

The success or failure of the Affordable Care Act should not be measured in ER visits. Studies have found that most patients in emergency departments need to be there or reasonably believe they do. The cost of emergency care in the U.S. still represents only about 4% of all healthcare spending, so the savings from diverting a few non-urgent patients would be negligible.

Timely access to healthcare is critical. Millions of patients will continue to seek care in our ERs because it is the right place for them to be.

Alex Rosenau, Washington

The writer, a physician, is president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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