Post-Obamacare Emergency Room Guidelines

By Lee Bellinger / March 28, 2014

Hospitals to Become More Crowded, Less Safe

Even if you’ve managed to keep your doctor in the wake of Obamacare, you may not be able to keep your emergency room. It’s something many of us don’t even think about…until an actual emergency forces us to rush to the nearest hospital. We hope the visit is covered by insurance. But if it’s a heart attack or a life-threatening wound, we need the care we receive to be immediate and top-notch.

Unfortunately, not only are emergency room costs going up, but quality is going down as millions of new Medicaid patients flood emergency rooms (largely to seek treatment for non-emergency conditions) and overwhelm hospital resources. This is the opposite of what Obamacare architects promised. They told us that by expanding the Medicaid rolls,lower-income Americans would be less reliant on emergency rooms.

That was a colossal miscalculation. A study published in the journal Science earlier this year found that Medicaid expansion has led to an astonishing 40% increase in emergency room visits among people who previously were not enrolled in Medicaid. According to economist Amy Finkelstein, one of the study’s co-authors, “Medicaid coverage increases emergency department use, both overall and for a broad range of types of visits, conditions, and subpopulations…including visits for conditions that may be most readily treatable in primary care settings.”

If you can just bill your emergency room visit for a sore throat to the taxpayer, why not? The emergency room is always open. Making an appointment to see a physician might be less convenient. Such perverse incentives have obviously predictable consequences that Obamacare bureaucrats somehow didn’t even think to consider.

New Reasons to Avoid
Emergency Rooms When Possible

Even before the Obama Medicaid tsunami began to hit emergency rooms, the dangerous conditions inside most ER facilities were a dirty little secret hospitals worked to conceal. In an alarmingly high number of cases, emergency rooms can be hazardous places for patients who may not need to be there.

Here’s why:

  • They can be busy and disorganized, in addition to being crowded and understaffed.
  • It’s easy for your interests to get lost in the shuffle – in an ER situation you could be treated by an overworked medical student, an exhausted intern, or a doctor who isnot trained in the area in which you have a problem.
  • Overextended medical staff may give you a wrong diagnosis that could result in the wrong treatment. In studies of autopsies, researchers found that doctors misdiagnose about one in five fatal disease cases.
  • Roughly 1.7 million people fall ill to hospital acquired infections each year. Those are just the reported infections. One study found that some hospitals under-report these infections by as much as a third!
  • You could easily be sitting next to a Typhoid Mary – an infected and highly contagious patient who could be carrying bacteria, influenza, or other viruses, parasites, even leprosy – all of which are prevalent among America’s increasingly immigrant-based population, especially in border states.

Avoid Getting Stuck with
an Outrageous ER Bill

Emergency rooms are often profit centers for hospitals. Yes, they have to write off a lot of costs for people who can’t or don’t pay their bills – but prices for ER services are inflated to compensate for the proportion of non-payers.

Hospital bills can be outrageously steep for even the simplest of treatments. What’s more, they are routinely riddled with errors, duplicate charges, and other oddities that result in over-billing.

Look over every item of your bill carefully. Rather than pay inflated hospital charges, demand that any dubious charges be removed. You can even ask that legitimate charges be lowered if you feel they are out of line. If you are insistent, odds are the hospital will make concessions and you won’t have to pay that padded bill.

Urgent Care Centers – Shorter Waits,
Lower Costs Than Emergency Rooms

If you’re in severe discomfort or pain, consider rushing to your local urgent care center instead of a typically backlogged and overpriced hospital. There are approximately 8,700 urgent care centers nationwide. They’re easily found in your local phone book.

According to the Urgent Care Association of America, 57% of patients wait 15 minutes or less to be seen and about 80% of all visits last less than an hour. That beats going to the ER. In
addition, many people don’t realize urgent care centers have convenient hours and can handle many routine medical concerns from fractures, STDs, flu, vaccinations, annual physicals, and more – all for less expense than hospital emergency rooms.

Go to ERs for This…

Sometimes, however, you will need to go to ahospital emergency room. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, these types of conditions may necessitate an ER visit:

  • Chest pain.
  • Sudden or severe pain.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Stroke.
  • Severe bleeding.
  • A head injury.
  • Other major trauma.

These types of conditions may be treated at an urgent care center:

  • A sprained ankle.
  • Ear infections.
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Minor burns or injuries.
  • Broken bones.
  • Coughs, colds, sore throats.
  • Animal bites.

An Ambulance Ride to the Hospital May Get You Better Care

Finally, none of this should be taken as advice to skip the ER or try to wait out your symptoms if you feel your life may be at risk. In such a circumstance, you must seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance – these patients are typically given priority over “walk-ins.”


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