The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's Effect on Emergency Medicine: A Synthesis of the Data

Ann Emerg Med. 2015 Nov;66(5):496-506. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2015.04.007. Epub 2015 May 11.


This review synthesizes the existing literature to provide evidence-based predictions for the future of emergency care in the United States as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with a focus on emergency department (ED) visit volume, acuity, and reimbursement. Patient behavior will likely be quite different for patients gaining Medicaid than for those gaining private insurance through the Marketplaces. Despite the threat of the individual mandate, not all uninsured patients will enroll, and those who choose to enroll will likely be a different population from those who remain uninsured. New Medicaid enrollees will be a sicker population and will likely increase their number of ED visits substantially. Their acuity will be higher at first but will then revert to the traditionally high number of low-acuity visits made by Medicaid patients. Most patients enrolling through the Marketplace are choosing high-deductible health plans, and they will initially avoid the ED because of high out-of-pocket costs but may present later and sicker after self-rationing their care. Most patients gaining health coverage through the Affordable Care Act will be shifting from uninsured to either Medicaid or private insurance, both of which reimburse more than self-pay, so ED collections should increase. Because of the differences between Medicaid and Marketplace plans, there will be a difference in ED volume, acuity, and financial outcomes, depending on states' current demographics, whether states expand Medicaid, and how aggressively states advertise new options for coverage in Medicaid or state health insurance Marketplaces.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medicine / economics
  • Emergency Medicine / trends*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics
  • Forecasting
  • Health Care Reform / economics
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act*
  • United States