Despite mandating universal health insurance in 2006, Massachusetts experienced a 7% increase in ER visits from 2005-2007, according to this article from today's Boston Globe. Nearly half of those visits were for conditions that did not require immediate care.
While state officials want more years to collect data before drawing conclusions, Dr. Sandra Schneider of the American College of Emergency Physicians explains why insurance alone doesn't keep people out of the ER: "Just because you have insurance doesn't mean there's a [primary care] physician to see you."
Several studies have shown that ER overcrowding is not solely caused by the uninsured, as many believe, but by patients who have insurance but cannot find or will not wait for an appointment with a primary care physician. With PCPs forced to fill their schedules months in advance, and the common perception of the ER as a place to receive immediate primary care, it seems that ERs will continue to be swamped across the country regardless of whether or not we adopt universal health care.