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Americans overwhelmingly favor insurers covering emergency medical care, poll shows

Results show 95 percent of Americans want emergency medical care covered by insurance, oppose pre-authorization for emergency room.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A new poll by Morning Consult shows the overwhelming majority of Americans want insurers to cover emergency medical care. The poll results, which show 95 percent of American want emergency care covered, are timely as Republicans roll out a contentious plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Morning Consult polled 1,791 registered voters as a national tracking poll in February on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians. The poll carried a 2 percent margin of error.

A majority of voters also voted for transparency, with nine in 10 saying health insurance companies should tell patients how they calculate coverage for emergency care. A third of voters said those payments should be determined using a "transparent, independent cost database and formula." ACEP said the results come as payers are shifting more costs onto patients and narrowing provider networks.

[Also: Mental health emergency department visits outpace non-psychiatric episodes, study says]

"The growth of out-of-pocket costs and the reductions of in-network physicians and hospitals are leaving insured people barely covered in an emergency. State and federal policymakers need to ensure that health insurance plans provide adequate rosters of physicians, affordable deductibles and co-pays and fair payment for emergency services," said Rebecca Parker, a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

A federal law known as EMTALA requires emergency room doctors to treat any patient that walks through the doors regardless of their ability to pay. According to ACEP, only 4 percent of all physicians are emergency physicians, however they provide services for 28 percent of acute care visits, 50 percent of all Medicare and CHIP visits, and 67 percent of acute care visits for the uninsured.

Other key findings show that 65 percent oppose patients being required to get pre-authorizations from their insurers before visiting an emergency room, which is not currently allowed. Also, 62 percent expect health insurance costs to go up next year.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn

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