Home > General > The emergency room myth busted

The emergency room myth busted

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the more interesting aspects of watching the health reform debate evolve is looking closely at the arguments of reform opponents.

  1. Tort reform, they shout. OK, want to federalize insurance torts? No way. Then how do you put tort reform into this bill?
  2. Buy across states, they shout. OK, want to federalize insurance regulation? No way. Then how can you overrule state regulations?
  3. Let the poor die. OK, but what about our being a Christian nation? Let charities take care of it. And when they’re inadequate, as they are?
  4. The poor can go to emergency rooms.

It’s this last one that got the attention of Harvard Medical School researchers. So they combed through data from The National Trauma Data Bank, which has 2.7 million cases from over 900 trauma centers.

Guess what they found? As reported in the Archives of Surgery, uninsured people had higher risks of death, even adjusted for age, sex, type of injury, etc. In some cases, like operating rooms, they were nearly twice as likely to die as insured patients, from the same injuries.

Brent Eastman, newly-elected chair of the American College of Surgeons, which runs the journal in question, added a tut-tutting commentary, calling the findings disturbing.

Opponents of reform can hang their hats on this. One of the authors of the new study, Dr. Atul Gawande (above), is known to be very much in favor of health reform.

He authored the piece in The New Yorker describing why costs in McAllen, Texas are much, much higher than elsewhere in the state, pointing to conflicts of interests among doctors who own hospitals.

In Gawande’s latest article, for The New York Times, he got together “positive outliers,” people from cities whose results and costs are better than average. Just by copying their best practices, he writes, we could save $1,500 per Medicare patient, slow inflation to 3% per year, yet improve quality.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled trolling.

Categories: General
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