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Single-payer zealots Steffie Woolhandler, David Himmelstein, et al, have produced a study confirming the blindingly obvious fact that ER wait times are increasing. From 1997 to 2004, the median wait to see an ER doctor went from 22 minutes to 30 minutes. For heart attack victims, the median wait jumped from 8 to 20 minutes.
None of this will come as the slightest surprise to anyone familiar with the operations of a typical hospital ER. So, why did these people spend so much time and money to tell us what we already know? The answer to that question can be found in their suggested solutions:
Reversing the trend of longer ED waits would likely require multiple reforms. Possible interventions include expanding insurance coverage and access to primary care resources to increase alternatives to ED visits; directing hospital resources to medical need … instead of profitable but unnecessary services.
Doctors Woolhandler and Himmelsrein are founding members of a single-payer advocacy group called Physicians for National Health Program that endorses HR676, the Dennis Kucinich “Medicare for All” bill. So, when they use the word “reform,” they mean a government imposed solution.
Thus, “expanding coverage” means getting rid of private insurance and letting Medicare metastisize throughout the entire health care system. And “directing hospital resources to need” means a federal decree from CMS telling hospitals what kinds of services they are permitted to offer.
The irony here is that increased ER wait times are the direct result of government intervention in the health care market. At the same time CMS began driving primary care physicians out of the market with it price control structure, Congress imposed EMTALA on the nation’s ERs.
So, the ER wait time problem cannot be solved by more government meddling. The solution is to pay primary care doctors enough so that they can afford to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients, remove the state and federal regulations that keep insurance costs so high, and revise EMTALA so that ERs are not inundated with patients seeking free care for non-urgent complaints.