By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hospitals in the Philadelphia area are reporting an increase in the number of people seeking medical care in emergency rooms. That’s seen as a sign that there are more uninsured people using E.R.’s for basic care.

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An analysis by the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council found E.R. visits up by more than two percent, last year, or nearly 4,000 visits.

“We’re still unfortunately feeling the ripple effect from that economic downturn.”

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Graphic shows a rise in Emergency Department visits. (Credit: Delaware Valley Healthcare Council)

Click here to download graphic. (PDF)

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Legislative services director Brian Eury says the recession left many people uninsured and turning to E.R.’s,  but two other events made the situation worse, “One was the expiration of Adult Basic.”

Last February, the state ended the insurance program for low-income Pennsylvanians. Blue Cross, which administered the program, offered a replacement, but, without state funds, it cost about four times more.

Eury says most Adult Basic customers remain uninsured. “Three out of 10 that came off Adult Basic went into commercial markets or other public offerings. Seven out of 10 did not.”

Eury says a semi-annual Medicaid review, begun by the Corbett administration in July, also left thousands uninsured while their cases were reviewed.

Most were re-enrolled, but state Senator Vincent Hughes says they never should have lost coverage. “We should keep those individuals covered while we do the review, especially since there’s so very little abuse. Those handful of people who should not be in the program, they’re hurting everybody else in the process.”

Senator Hughes says he’d like to see the state reverse course on both, “That way we can minimize the number of people using emergency room services, understanding that emergency room care is the most costly care.”

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