For a more detailed summary of RomneyCare, please visit Mitt Romney Central here.
The Emergency Room is a common place for the uninsured to go in order to get "free" healthcare. Many of the uninsured realize that the ER is required by federal law to accept and treat any patient requiring care, regardless of ability to pay or citizenship status. The great tragedy is that the ER is the most expensive place to go to get healthcare. The cost to visit an emergency room is often 3 to 7 times higher than going to your private doctor or Urgent Care facility. (See table below)
The ER has been a haven for "freeloaders," or in other words, the irresponsible individuals who refuse to purchase health insurance and then want someone else to pay for their medical treatment after they get injured or sick. The problem with the uninsured receiving care at ER rooms is that, due to the patients inability to pay for the high cost healthcare, the state government is required to compensate the hospital. This causes healthcare costs of the government to increase exponentially.
Romney realized this back when he was reforming the MA healthcare system. Romney's goal was to reduce ER visits by providing health insurance to everyone in the state. Romney believed that if people had private health insurance, they would go to their family doctor to receive care rather than go to the emergency room. Thus reducing the overall costs for the state gov.
However, a problem has surfaced in MA. Five years after the enactment of MA health reform, ER visits continue to rise.
Critics of Romneycare cite this as one way in which Romneycare has failed. However, what these critics don't realize is that it is not the total number of ER visits, but who is paying for it that matters.
Romneycare requires that all citizen carry private health insurance, and it is the private health insurance that is paying for the ER visits, not the state government. No longer are people allowed to "freeload" on the taxpayers expense and expect other people to pay their medical bills, even if they go to the ER.
A key point to remember is the "cardinal rule" of health insurance. That rule states that when people actually have health insurance, utilization goes up. In other words, when people have health insurance, they go to the doctor more often.
The increase in ER visits is simply a result of people following the "cardinal rule" and using their health insurance benefits. It is not surprising that ER visits have gone up, but the important thing who is paying for the ER visits.
Thanks to Romneycare, the state government no longer has to shoulder the costs of people utilizing the ER. That cost is now placed upon private insurance companies. Romneycare has been successful in reducing the state's burden of paying for uninsured ER visits.
FYI, Here is a Table Comparing Costs at ER versus Urgent Care: (I actually got these numbers from an ER room here in Colorado.)
ER versus Urgent Care
$857 vs. $205 for a bruised finger
$1,050 vs. $184 for a cough
$907 vs. $320 for a cut
$682 vs. $181 for diarrhea
$555 vs. $195 for an ear infection
$675 vs. $202 for a sinus infection
$770 vs. $231 for a sprain
$1,072 vs. $196 for a urinary infection
$1,204 vs. $172 for a headache