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Poll: Emergency care is the most essential health benefit to cover

Almost three in four Americans said that emergency medicine services should be covered by insurance

American College of Emergency Physicians 

WASHINGTON — An overwhelming number of people — nearly three in four Americans — say that health insurance companies must be required to cover emergency medicine services as part of any health care replacement bill before Congress, according to a new poll by Morning Consult.

Currently, in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 10 essential health benefits, including emergency care, mental health care and prescription drug coverage, are required by law to be covered.  According to the poll, emergency services rated the highest of the 10 benefits, with 73 percent of the public saying it was "very important" to keep.  It was followed by hospitalization coverage with 72 percent.

The new legislation currently before the U.S. Senate which the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) does not support — would allow states to waive those ACA requirements.  If this happened, it would significantly harm care for patients by leaving them without coverage while benefitting insurance companies.

"Congress needs to listen to the American people and be reminded of the federal mandate it gave to hospital emergency departments in 1986 — to care for everyone, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay," said Rebecca Parker, MD, FACEP, president of American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  "Unfortunately, insurance companies historically have always denied coverage for emergency care when given the option, as the current bill will do.  Access to emergency care is critical to all Americans, as is insurance coverage for that care."

The poll also found that one-third of Americans (33 percent) have already delayed or even avoided emergency care out of concerns about the cost of the co-pay, co-insurance and/or their health insurance deductible.

"Patients can't choose where and when they will need emergency care and they shouldn't be punished financially for having emergencies," said Dr. Parker. "If you or a family member suddenly develop sharp and persistent pain in your abdomen, you should have the confidence that your health insurance will cover you so that you can go to the nearest emergency department."

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