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Some Kentucky Hospitals See Increase in ER Visits Since ACA But That's Not the Case Statewide

Murray-Calloway County Hospital CEO Jerry Penner has seen an increase in emergency room visits this year, which he says is likely because of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid.

He says some newly insured have used the emergency room like a health clinic in the past but haven’t yet gone to a primary care physician.

“It’s a learned process,” he said. “We have to unlearn them, teach them another way to seek their health care and try to get them a gatekeeper or a primary care physician to manage their basic care.”

Emergency room visits cost much more than a visit to a primary care physician. Penner says.

“That visit is probably $25-$35 versus the $700-$800 hit that you’re going to get going to the emergency department,” he said.

Penner also says it may be difficult to find a physician. He says while the ACA was rolled out in one year giving many people access to insurance in Kentucky, it takes significantly more years that to become a physician.

Meanwhile. Kentucky Hospital Association Senior Vice President Nancy Galvagni says the first two quarters of 2014 showed no significant increase in emergency room visits.

“Hospitals are the safety net. Hospitals have always been treating the uninsured,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of uninsured in our emergency room and those people likely many of them now have Medicaid coverage. So we’re seeing the payer status change from uninsured to Medicaid but we haven’t really seen a huge upward trend statewide.”

Galvagni’s data is only for the first half of 2014 and she says trends could have changed since then.


Whitney grew up listening to Car Talk to and from her family’s beach vacation each year, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced her to This American Life that radio really grabbed her attention. She is a recent graduate from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she studied journalism. When she’s not at WKMS, you can find her working on her backyard compost pile and garden, getting lost on her bicycle or crocheting one massive blanket.
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