Certainly there are people, usually uninsured/underinsured patients, who take advantage of Emergency Rooms for non emergency situations. In most cases, people who have good health insurance are not compelled to abuse emergency room services, because they can afford preventive medical care and treatment for chronic conditions.
A common theme espoused by many is that Emergency rooms are carrying the entire health care load of costs for anyone that walks in! “People who aren’t citizens get free health care”------ is a common refrain. This is not true. Uninsured patients, under-insured patients, aliens and illegal aliens, and anyone presenting at an Emergency department only qualify for emergent care. This means, if an uninsured patient is diagnosed with cancer, or any chronic condition, he/she will not get chemotherapy, radiation, or other on-going treatment for chronic conditions without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars up front.
A well known Cancer hospital in Texas required $105K deposit from an uninsured cancer patient before it would provide care. “This tax-exempt hospital receives tax subsidies from federal, state, and local governments. In addition, this tax-exempt hospital receives an exemption from income, property and sales taxes, the ability to receive tax-deductible contributions, and the ability to raise capital through the issuance of tax-exempt bonds.”*
I give THANKS to emergency departments and especially thank the dedicated, underpaid and often burned out medical staff for the miracles they perform daily. THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT is not revolutionary, but rather evolutionary. Health care access should be a right for all, and not a privilege of the wealthy.
Now, since the glare of the Wall Street Journal spotlight has shifted from the Texas hospital, has this institution returned to its ‘business as usual’ protocol?
*See:“Cash Before Chemo: Hospitals Get Tough” Wall Street Journal 4/28/08.