Last year, about 80,000 emergency-room patients at hospitals owned by HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, left without treatment after being told they would have to first pay $150 because they did not have a true emergency.
Physicians worry that sick people will forgo treatment. There is no data on how many who leave the ER without treatment follow up with visits to doctors’ offices or clinics.
“This is a real problem,” said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who estimated that 2 to 7 percent of patients screened in ERs and found not to have serious problems are admitted to hospitals within 24 hours. (Medicynical emphasis)
“After you’ve done the medical screening, it makes little sense to not go ahead and write a patient a prescription,” said Dr. Michael Zappa, a Boca Raton, Fla., hospital consultant and former president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians.
Medicynical Note: ER care is not a solution to the severe health care access problem for the indigent and those lacking insurance. ER care is the most expensive and most inefficient care in the world. However, at present, most locations in our country do not have alternative more efficient facilities available. And when people with medical problems, seemingly “non emergent” are turned away we create an incubator for the development of serious problems. This is hardly an enlightened or reasonable health care system.
What distinguishes the U.S. health care from that provided in other industrialized countries is that ours is not provided in a systematic organized fashion. As we’ve noted it is a non-system of care, that is slowly but surely bankrupting us individually and collectively.
Our conservative friends may be in denial but health care reform approaches this ethical medical issue by assuring coverage to almost all of us.