On Friday July 20, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about automobile congestion in cities. The article described the solution in London - charge a “congestion fee”. Within the congestion zone and during business hours, everyone who drives a car (except people who live in the zone) is charged a fee. The charge is around $10. The fine for not paying the charge is about $100. So what? I mean, what does this have to do with health care? Well maybe nothing, but check this out:
The zone was recently expanded to include one of London’s largest hospitals, Chelsea & Westminster. And what happened? “Suddenly, the hospital’s emergency room was busiest just after 6 p.m. – when the zone stops operating – instead of at 4 p.m.” The chief executive of the hospital remarked that “maybe the ER patients are not as urgent as they thought they were.”
The article further reports that “People who can prove they drove through the zone for a genuine medical emergency can get a refund but that doesn’t include women in labor” to which a woman who recently had a baby at this hospital and paid the fine for driving there commented: “it wasn’t worth contesting because they really do not care.”
Stiff upper lip, you blokes. See, medical care in the sceptered isle is still free.