Thursday, June 15, 2006

ER is Dying

The U.S. emergency medical system is in critical condition and on life support -- overburdened, under-funded, and highly fragmented, according to three new reports released Wednesday by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

According to the reports, ambulances are being turned away from emergency departments and patients can wait hours or even days for a hospital bed.
Longer waits, less availability of services.

Why do we have this problem?

Insufficient funding and uncompensated care have taken a toll on the capacity of the emergency medical system.

Hospitals are prohibited from turning away patients who need emergency care, regardless of their ability to pay. The 17% of the population that is uninsured is creating a financial burden on a system that is already in crisis. And as we know, about 60% of those who are uninsured have the means to obtain coverage, they simply refuse to take responsibility.

In 2003, emergency departments saw nearly 114 million patients -- a 26 percent increase over the previous decade -- but during the same 10 years the United States lost 703 hospitals and 425 emergency departments, one report noted.

More patients spread over fewer facilities. This is a recipe for disaster.

A growing number of uninsured Americans are looking to emergency departments as their health care "safety net," and much of this care is never paid for.
ER’s were never designed to be a primary care provider.

So what is the solution?

The reports urges Congress to allocate $50 million to reimburse hospitals for uncompensated emergency and trauma care and to increase funding to provide hospitals with resources needed to handle disaster situations.

Well of course! Completely abandon personal responsibility and abdicate that role to the government. Of course the government really doesn’t have any money to allocate. What they can do is steal these funds from the taxpayer and redistribute the wealth to those who would rather buy a plasma TV than health insurance.

NOTE: Bob, prescient as always, also blogged on this a few weeks ago, with other interesting stats and perspectives.
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