Monday, September 24, 2012
Why relying on the emergency room is the most inefficient and costly form of universal healthcare
Health Care’s Frequent Fliers: The Treatment of Kenny Farnsworth
Providing basic health care in an emergency room makes no economic sense. According to the New England Healthcare Institute, a Cambridge, Mass.-based policy research organization, Americans’ overdependence on the ER leads to tremendous waste. By treating chronic and nonurgent problems with emergency care rather than primary care, the group estimates that we fritter away as much as $32 billion nationally each year. The same treatment from a primary care doctor is usually two to five times more expensive through the emergency room. The main reason is that the staff in an ER is practicing defensive medicine: They’re often trying to rule out what may be wrong with you, hence all the expensive blood tests and X-rays. ERs also have to be open at all hours and be staffed with high-priced specialists, unlike at primary care offices.
Simon Owens is an assistant managing editor at U.S. News & World Report. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Email him at email@example.com