Too many Americans get care in emergency rooms instead of doctors offices — and expanded health coverage is making the problem worse rather than fixing it.

Three in four emergency room doctors said patient visits have increased since the Affordable Care Act's requirement to have health insurance went into effect, in an email survey released Monday by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

That's not the news some healthcare advocates had hoped for. The thought was that by expanding health coverage to more people, they would get their ailments treated earlier by primary care doctors and could avoid visiting emergency rooms, which already struggle with an overload of patients.

"I think a lot of people shared our hope that when you gave people access to Medicaid, they would go to the doctor, get preventive care and not need to go to the emergency department," said Katherine Baicker, a health economics professor at Harvard. "That's a reasonable hope."

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