Health overhaul may mean longer ER waits, crowding

CHICAGO (AP) - Hospital emergency rooms may grow even more crowded with longer wait times under the nation's new health law - which provides insurance coverage for 32 million more people.

It would seem these patients would now be able to get routine health care by visiting a doctor's office, but it's not that simple.

There's a shortage of front-line family physicians in some places and experts think that will get worse.

Also, the study finds that people without insurance aren't the ones filling up emergency rooms. The biggest users of ERs by far are Medicaid recipients. And the new law will increase their ranks by about 16 million.

Rand Corp. researcher Dr. Arthur Kellermann predicts newly covered patients will be less afraid to go to the emergency department if they're sick or hurt and their resources for treatment are limited. As he puts it, "We just don't have other places in the system for these folks to go."

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