- If they can't get in to see a doctor quickly, 65% of people responding to a new survey head to the emergency room, while 30% treat themselves and 25% put off getting care, according to an online survey commissioned by Zocdoc, a startup vendor of an online scheduling tool, and conducted by Kelton Global, a research company.
- Even though the majority of respondents (84%) said they have a primary care doctor, 33% have gone the emergency room for non-urgent medical care. And younger generations (44% of Generation Z, 33% of Generation X, and 41% of millennials) are more likely than baby boomers (23%) to have used the emergency room for routine medical care.
- Some 31% of survey respondents have received unexpected medical bills after an emergency department visit.
Non-urgent visits to emergency departments are costly, and reducing their frequency has been a focus of hospitals and payers for years.
In 2016, ED visits increased by nearly 10 million patients to 145.6 million visits — which was the highest total number of visits in recent memory, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year.
At the same time, the percentage of emergency-department patients with non-urgent medical conditions dropped to 4.3% in 2016, down from 5.5% in 2015, the CDC found.
In the current study, 69% of survey respondents said they weren't sure what it costs to visit an emergency room, although 75% suspect it is more than a doctors' office visit, including 32% who think the emergency department might be four times more expensive.
Receiving surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers, including emergency departments, is a topic of debate in Washington.
The volume of surprise bills appears to be increasing rapidly. For example, a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine found the percentage of ED visits resulting in a surprise bill jumped from 32.3% in 2010 to 42.8% in 2016. During the same time period, the cost nearly doubled, with the top 10% of ED visits resulting in a bill of more than $1,000.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee in July passed the No Surprises Act with a provider-backed amendment adding an arbitration clause. The Trump administration supports proposals to ban the practice, but opposes arbitration clauses as do most payers. Hospitals and doctors support arbitration clauses and oppose efforts to set a payment standard for out-of-network services.
A total of 1,028 people completed the online survey nationally. A second group of 625 survey respondents came from six targeted states.