New policy proposals and practices sought by the administration or enabled by the Affordable Care Act will also modify demand, Sama says. For example, a proposal to pay primary care physicians who treat Medicaid patients at the same rate they treat Medicare patients, is now under review.
Other trends that may help the situation include an increasing number of retail and urgent care clinics.
But those developments are offset by the number of emergency departments around the country that have closed or are closing. The fact that those retail clinics operate in large part 9 to 5 and not on weekends, and that people without insurance may find the costs beyond their reach, Sama says.
"Even with the enhanced resources, these numbers are not going to go down," Sama said. He anticipates a continued 2% to 3% increase in emergency department utilization each year, which was estimated at 135 million annual visits in 2009.
The CDC survey also found that nearly four in five ED patients said they went to the ED because they had nowhere else to go. And two in three said they perceived their problem was so serious as to require immediate medical attention, according to a federal survey that's the first of its kind.