Experts fear Texas emergency room overcrowding under new law

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 28, 2012 at 7:39 PM

DALLAS - The Supreme Court health care law decision Thursday may bring big crowds in Texas' hospital waiting rooms.

President Obama's health care law is designed to make sure more people will get health care -- particularly preventive health care. But there are simply not enough primary care doctors in Texas to handle an extra six million patients.

Up to a million-and-a-half of those patients will be newly qualified for Medicaid. However, about a third of all family doctors in the state don't accept Medicaid anymore because of low reimbursements and the general hassle of government red tape.

The health care law doesn't order doctors to accept Medicaid patients, so the result may be even worse overcrowding of our emergency rooms.

"I think many of those people don't currently have a primary care provider that they utilize," said DFW Hospital Council President Steve Love. "Therefore, they're going to come to the emergency room. Many of them may still come to the emergency room at a more advanced stage of their illness, even without any kind of coverage."

Experts from many organizations say access to those first-line doctors is a huge concern.

Medical schools will have to churn out more family practice doctors, and more family practice physicians will have to be willing to take Medicaid.

Those issues aren't likely to be solved in the next two years, when the full force of the health care plan takes effect, so emergency rooms will feel an impact.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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