ER Visits on the Rise, and I'm Not Surprised

Juliet Farmer
4

Hospital gown
Photo by iwona_kellie
In the past six years, I've averaged one emergency room trip per year -- two of them for myself, one for my husband, and three for a close relative.

Sitting in that crowded waiting room (and waiting, and waiting) has shown me that lots (and lots) of people from all walks of life use the ER. 

It's no surprise, then, that WebMD recently noted the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reports ER use is on the rise, and has been for the past 14 years.

My ER visits have ranged from a broken arm (bicycle accident) and, on a separate visit, a broken leg (the result of running with wet feet on hardwood floors); to my husband's busted lip (when an elbow connected with his mouth during a basketball game); to three separate late-night trips for various ailments for an elderly relative.

In all instances, no matter what day of the week, time of day, or day of the month, the ER was crowded.

Statistics from the CDC corroborate my observations:

  • One in five people in the US had one or more emergency room visits over a 12-month period in 2007.
  • The uninsured between 45 and 64 were no more likely than those with private insurance to report at least one emergency room visit.
  • Among adults 18 to 44, the uninsured were more likely than those with private insurance to have at least one ER visit.
  • Medicaid patients were more likely to have reported multiple ER visits than people with private insurance, as well as the uninsured.
  • As family income increased, the likelihood of having visited an ER decreased. Income differences were more pronounced than those based on age, race, or ethnicity.
  • Adults 75 and over were more likely to have reported at least one ER visit in a 12-month period than younger people.
  • Non-Hispanic black people were more likely to have reported one or more ER visits in a 12-month period than non-Hispanic whites or Hispanics.
  • In 2007, 10 percent of ER visits by people under age 65 were considered non-urgent.

About 15 years ago, I had (self-diagnosed) sun poisoning and was very sick. My then boyfriend (now husband) drove across town to pick me up and take me to the ER. We walked into a crowded waiting room, I turned on my heel and walked out, saying, "I'd rather die at home than wait here all night."

That being said, the last two ER visits I had, I stuck around and got treated, and both times I thought I had severe sprains that turned out to be breaks, so it's a good thing I stayed.

How many times have you been to the ER in the past year?


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