4/01/2009

9 People accounted for 2,678 emergency room visits over 6 years

Here is an unintended consequence of government mandates on care. It is pretty hard to see these numbers and not believe that people have easy access to medical care.

In the past six years, eight people from Austin and one from Luling racked up 2,678 emergency room visits in Central Texas, costing hospitals, taxpayers and others $3 million, according to a report from a nonprofit made up of hospitals and other providers that care for the uninsured and low-income Central Texans.

One of the nine spent more than a third of last year in the ER: 145 days. That same patient totaled 554 ER visits from 2003 through 2008. . . . .

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Blogger NW Shooter said...

This is an excellent example of the unintended consequences of laws. EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act)was passed years ago to prevent hospitals from sending non-paying patients away. The end result is that if a patient shows up at an Emergency Room they must receive a "Medical Screening Exam" and have their emergency "stabilized." Neither of these terms are defined in the original law, but it leaves those of us in Emergency Medicine to decide what is stable and hope that plaintiff's attorney agrees.

In addition to what people would consider are actual emergencies, ED's are filled with people that come in for ongoing mental health issues, treatment of chronic conditions, and, in the case of the medium-sized city ED I work in, food and shelter.

It is unlikely that any Senator or Representative will vote to overturn EMTALA and risk "denying people emergency medical care" (as their opponent would undoubtedly present it in the next election).

In the mean time, hospitals will have to go on spending money to see these patients, sometimes getting paid, but often not.

It costs the hospitals money (we have to pay to keep the lights on, pay the workers, and, ironically, cover the costs of the malpractice insurance to see the non-paying patients). This gets passed on to the taxpayers or those with insurance.

The original article was from Austin, which says that many of their patients are "illegal aliens". My Emergency Department is in the northwest, and most of the people abusing the system are Americans.

4/02/2009 12:22 PM  

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