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The CDC’s report on ER overcrowding is out, and the news isn’t good. ED visits are up 20 percent over the last ten years and the number of EDs actually available to treat these patients has dropped by 9% during the same period. What could be causing this? GruntDoc has a nice, succinct theory:
If you subsidize something, you get more of it.
And who would be stupid enough to subsidize visits to already overcrowded emergency rooms? Why those geniuses in Washington, of course. Patients with Medicaid/SCHIP coverage, for whom such visits are essentially free, are nearly four times more likely to appear in the ED than are patients with private insurance.
And there is, of course, EMTALA. Because this brilliant federal law decrees a “medical screening” for every patient who shows up in the emergency room, regardless of ability to pay, many people with no insurance use the ED as a free clinic. The CDC report indicates that such patients use the ED at twice the rate of privately insured patients.
But take heart! Our masters in Washington are working to “solve” this seemingly intractable problem. This neatly captures the inevitable effect of government intervention in health care. The politicians and bureaucrats meddle with the system, which produces problems. Then, they declare a crisis and meddle some more.
And there are people who actually think we should turn the entire health care system over to these boneheads.