CDC: One-fifth of Americans visit ER once a year

The five most populous states in the U.S. -- California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas -- account for more than one-third of all ER visits nationally.
By Stephen Feller  |  June 24, 2016 at 4:29 PM
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ATLANTA, June 24 (UPI) -- While emergency rooms are known for being busy, new national research shows the level of patients in the five most populous states does not vary widely -- though they make up more than one-third of all emergency room visits in the United States.

A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows emergency rooms are busy, with one in five Americans taking at least one trip per year to the hospital for urgent care, with most being adults and most not admitted for care.

Emergency room visits increased for years because of non-emergency visits due to a lack of options for healthcare, based either on a lack of insurance preventing someone from going to a regular doctor, because hours were not convenient to them or because of a lack of some other health information.

The Affordable Care Act was expected to lower the number of emergency room visits people take, but a 2015 study showed many were still going to the ER as the annual number of visits continued to increase, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians, though now many can pay using insurance.

It's worth noting the explosion of retail health clinics, meant to treat non-life threatening health concerns while not becoming a primary mode for healthcare, has taken some patients away from the ER because the clinics are cheaper and sometimes faster, but ERs are still busy nearly everywhere.

As suggested by other studies regarding ER use, the new CDC study is in line with previous estimates of the number of Americans utilizing emergency care services at hospitals -- including one in five Americans seeking care at the ER each year.

For the study, published at the CDC's website, researchers analyzed data collected as part of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey in 2012, focusing mostly on ER visits in the five most populous states in the nation -- California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.

Overall, there were about 131 million emergency room visits in the United States, with the national rate at 42 visits per 100 people per year and roughly 20 percent of Americans having one or more ER visits per year. Of these, 36 percent were in the most populous states, ranging from 37 visits per 100 in New York to 49 visits per 100 in Texas.

The researchers note the visit rate between the five states and overall United States do not have a statistical significance, including the rate of visits in Texas.

Nearly two-thirds of the visits -- 63 percent -- were by adults between the ages of 18 and 64, followed by 21 percent of visits for children under 18 and 16 percent for people over age 65. In California, 22 percent of visits were by people over age 65, 6 points higher than the national percentage.

Among adults, a far greater number -- 69 percent -- of adults visited the ER than other states, and at 11 percent, the number of visits by children was the lowest of the five states.

Most people visiting the emergency room had some type of health insurance, with 29 percent having private insurance, 25 percent with Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program policies, 18 percent had Medicare and 14 percent did not have insurance at all.

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