In the age of deeply polarized politics, it’s hard to find a statement nearly everyone agrees on. But the American College of Emergency Physicians got about as close to that as possible in a recent survey it commissioned on health insurance.
Ninety-five percent of Americans, the organization reports, believe insurance should cover emergency medical care. The poll was conducted by Morning Consult.
An overwhelming majority (83 percent) similarly believe insurers should pick up the tab if a patient goes to the ER because they believe they are suffering from a heart attack, even if it later is discovered to be a panic attack.
The ACEP conducted the poll as part of its ongoing advocacy in support of maintaining what it views as key patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. It and other medical groups have come out strongly against the health care plan being pushed by President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress that would repeal the ACA, replacing it with a system of tax credits based on a person’s age.
"Provisions currently in the ACA that directly benefit emergency patients must be protected," says group president Rebecca Parker in a statement. "Patients can't choose where and when they will need emergency care and they shouldn't be punished financially for having emergencies."
There is evidence the ACA, by boosting insurance rates, helped to reduce the amount of uncompensated care delivered by hospitals, particularly in the emergency room.
However, the ACEP has also argued that many ACA beneficiaries’ insurance plans were insufficient due to high deductibles and narrow networks. A survey of its members in 2015 showed that a high percentage of ER doctors reported receiving insured patients for non-emergency visits because the patient could not find or pay for a nearby primary care physician or specialist included in their insurance network.
Indeed, its most recent poll shows that 35 percent of respondents say they have been to the ER because they were unable to get an appointment with a doctor.
"Health insurers have been taking gross advantage of patients and medical providers since the Affordable Care Act took effect, arbitrarily slashing reimbursements to physicians by as much as 70 percent,” said then-president Jay Kaplan at the time. “Patients and physicians should band together to fight these dangerous insurance industry practices."