With Medicaid enrollment rising because of eligibility changes introduced through the Affordable Care Act, hospital emergency rooms expect to see an increase in the number of emergency room visits as new Medicaid enrollees seek care for long-neglected health problems.

In anticipation of this rise in ER visits, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued an informational bulletin with suggestions for hospitals on how to manage the expected increase in ER utilization.

iStock_000000522737XSmallAmong CMS’s suggestions are for hospitals to broaden access to primary care services (because much of the increased utilization will be because the newly insured still do not know where to turn for care); focus on helping especially frequent ER visits find more appropriate sources of care; and target the needs of people with behavioral health problems.

This influx of new ER patients will especially be a challenge for the nation’s private  safety-net hospitals because they serve low-income communities in which Medicaid enrollment increases should be significant.

To learn more about CMS’s recommendations for addressing this ER challenge, including some of the legal and reimbursement-related challenges this will pose, see the CMS informational bulletin “Reducing Nonurgent Use of Emergency Departments and Improving Appropriate Care in Appropriate Settings.”