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More patients putting off care due to high out-of-pocket costs

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The majority of emergency physicians reported seeing emergency room patients with health insurance who have delayed seeking medical care because of high out-of-pocket costs, a new survey revealed.

According to the survey released Monday by the national emergency medicine organization, American College of Emergency Physicians, 70% of emergency physicians said they have seen patients who have put off medical care because of high out-of-pocket expenses, high deductibles or high co-insurance.

Several other insurance-related issues are prompting patients to resort to the emergency room, Dallas-based ACEP found.

Sixty-five percent of emergency physicians said they are seeing increased numbers of emergency patients because their commercial health plans do not provide enough primary care doctors for their patients, and 60% reporting seeing increased numbers because the plans don't provide enough medical or surgical specialists.

In addition, 67% of emergency physicians said primary care doctors are sending patients to the emergency room for medical tests and procedures not covered by the health plan.

And 81% of emergency doctors reported treating patients who had trouble finding specialist providers because of narrow network plans that limit their options, the study found.

“This is a scary environment for patients,” ACEP president Dr. Jay Kaplan said in a statement announcing the survey results. “Many patients are motivated by fear of costs and not by the seriousness of their medical conditions. The insurance companies are shifting costs onto patients and medical providers as they attempt to increase their bottom lines, and this threatens the foundation of our nation's medical care system.”

The survey of 1,433 emergency physicians was conducted in September.