A 28 year-old single man with type I diabetes mellitus presents to your busy Texas emergency department in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is his third hospitalization for DKA in 5 months. When you ask the patient about his current medication regimen, he admits that he frequently skips doses as a cost-savings measure. He shares that he works 45 hours a week at a small local grocery store, makes minimum wage ($15,660 pretax), and has no health insurance. His prescribed insulin regimen, consisting of Lantus at bedtime and Humalog with meals, costs approximately $600 a month. This cost estimate is based on 25 units of nightly Lantus and 25 total units of Humalog daily from GoodRx advertised list prices for the San Antonio area.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to expand coverage to the uninsured and many politicians claimed this would result in lower use of “expensive emergency rooms” for the treatment of patients’ acute complaints. Ignore, for the moment, the controversy about whether or not the emergency department (ED) is an expensive or appropriate place for patients to seek care. A new survey [PDF] from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asked the question: Did the ACA actually reduce ED visits as politicians promised?1