Health

D.C. Taking Advantage of ACA, But ER Struggles to Keep Up

District officials are applauding a recent study showing that more than 25,000 residents who previously had no health insurance are now covered.

But though nearly half of residents who were uninsured now have coverage, it isn’t translating into more space at one of the city’s busiest emergency rooms, which saw more than 60,000 adults and 30,000 children last year.

The DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBEA), which commissioned the study, found that the D.C. government has made huge gains in insuring the previously uninsured.

Mila Kofman, executive director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, called the reduction of the number of uninsured D.C. residents by half in just three years a “tremendous achievement.”

While Kofman praised several city agency officials and their community partners for decreasing the number of uninsured, officials at the United Medical Center say the fact that more people are insured has not changed anything at their facility.

“Our ER has not seen any decrease, we are still very busy,” said David Thompson, spokesman for the United Medical Center. “If people are sick in the middle of the night, they come to the ER, when who they need to see is their primary care physician.”

The United Medical Center has the third-busiest ER in the city, and many of the people it treats actually have health insurance and could be treated in an office, Thompson said.

Two years ago, the hospital started a program called Fast Track designed to cut down on the number of patients who weren’t critically ill.

Despite UMC’s conundrum, Leighton Ku, chair of the Research Committee of the Executive Board of DCHBEA and professor of health policy at George Washington University, is optimistic about the future of President Obama’s signature legislation.

“Clearly, the Affordable Care Act is working in the District of Columbia,” Ku said in a statement. “We are working together to be a national model for increasing insurance coverage and improving access to health care for District residents and small businesses.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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