With emergency room visits and hospital overcrowding on the rise, waiting times have grown dangerously long—36% longer than they were in 1997. A new study in medical journal Health Affairs cites especially troubling waits for heart attack victims, with 25% waiting at least 50 minutes to see a doctor in 2004. The average heart attack patient waited 8 minutes in 1997 and 20 minutes in 2004.
Even worse, there are 12% fewer ERs now than in the 90s, due to hospital underfunding, Reuters reports. "EDs close because, in our current payment system, emergency patients are money-losers for hospitals," the study claims. Although the waits affect uninsured and insured alike, one of the authors points out, overcrowding results from "Americans' poor access to primary and preventive care."