Emergency Room “Crisis”: An Onion With Many Layers – Pacific Research Institute

Emergency Room “Crisis”: An Onion With Many Layers

The California Hospital Association has come on board Governor Schwarzenegger’s and Speaker Nuñez’ Health Reform Deforminator Model ABX1 1 – provided much of the cash thrown off the whirlygig of taxing and spending lands in its members’ coffers.

Those in favor of more government spending on health care have succeeded in planting an intuitively appeally but utterly misleading narrative in the public mind: that the health “crisis” is driven by uninsured patients who crowd into emergency rooms but don’t pay their bills, thus leaving the hospitals on the financial brink and forcing them to shift costs onto privately insured patients.

I have debunked this notion before, but the fallacy chugs along nevertheless. Later this month, PRI will publish my paper describing alternatives to Health Reform Deforminator Model ABX1 1. In it, I examine more closely the hospitals’ claims about ER abuse, and conclude that ERs are actually profitable for California hospitals, making their demands for more taxpayer money especially galling.

In the latest issue of the Sacramento Business Journal, the hospitals trot out their standard line about how their ERs are overburdened, but this time the story comes with some twists (for perceptive readers):

The ERs are so crowded that some patients get tired of the wait and walk out: At UC Davis Medical Center, about 20 percent of “patients” hit the road! Pardon my French, but if you can stroll out the door because you’ve got something better to do, how exactly is this an emergency?

How are Sacramento-area hospitals dealing with this “crisis”? By investing about half a billion dollars in building more surgical and ER capacity! Doesn’t that seem like an odd way to handle a department that is losing money hand over fist?

In fact, ER visits often turn into in-patient admissions, which are profitable, as I discuss in my forthcoming paper. Watch this space!

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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