Sunday, October 2, 2011

New ER Limit Opposed By Doctors

Starting tomorrow the State of Washington will begin limiting Medicaid patients to three non-emergency visits to the ER each year, as a way to cut $72 million in costs. This sounded sensible to me. After all, it is merely a limit on "non-emergency" visits to the "Emergency Room." (Three a year!) The new law includes a list of 700 non-emergency symptoms for which patients are directed to contact a regular doctor rather than go to an Emergency Room.

But according to THIS article by ABC News, the American College of Emergency Physicians (the "ACEP") is suing to over-turn the law. Their stated concern seems to be about the unreliability of self-diagnosis by patents trying to determine whether their symptoms truly constitute an 'emergency' or not. That actually seemed like a valid concern to me.  But then the article detailed specific examples, and there they lost me.  Predictably, the hypothetical about determining the severity of a burn used a child as an example, not an adult.  (Presumably, it would strain credulity for the ACEP to suggest that adults would be incapable of determining whether their own burns were Emergency Room worthy or not.)

And then came this kicker from their spokesman. "Sexually transmitted diseases are also included on the list of non-emergencies.'A lot of people don't want to go to their family doctor with these issues,' Anderson said."

Will we ever be able to get a handle on healthcare costs in this country if any reform that might make patients with STDs feel at all awkward or embarrassed is opposed in court by our physicians?

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