Needless Fears Cloud Healthcare Advantages
Comments in a recent post on HealthLeaders Media about the impact of healthcare reform were some of the oddest I have seen yet. The premise of the article is that hospitals will become more dangerous places as throngs of people show up at emergency rooms demanding care.
Isn’t one of the major benefits of expanding health insurance to more people that they can take advantage of preventive care and office visits instead of using emergency rooms to treat health crises? One of the main contributors to the rising cost of healthcare is the strain of uninsured patients using emergency rooms as triage centers for care that would be cheaper and easier to administer in doctors’ offices or clinics. Therefore, healthcare reform should reduce the number of people in emergency rooms, rather than cause significant increases.
A quick Google search led me to an interesting article on nwi.com, a northwest Indiana media company. The article points out the huge drain on hospitals from uninsured patients who seek medical care in emergency rooms for health problems that would be much less severe and less costly if they had sought care earlier.
“Part of the problem is people just showing up in the hospital emergency rooms because they have no healthcare, and that is the resource of choice,” Mike Wojcik, chairman of The Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce healthcare council, told nwi.com.
Certainly, there will be some uninformed folks, such as those described in the HealthLeaders article. James Blair, FACHE, president and CEO, Center for Healthcare Emergency Readiness in Nashville, said, “You have overcrowded emergency rooms right now. You’re going to make 30 million people eligible [for insurance]. They won’t be coming hat in hand.” Blair says that people have been led to believe they have a right to medical care. He warns that patients may become violent when they realize there are waiting periods and other provisions in the law that may not allow immediate care.
Fredrick Roll, MA, CHPA-F, CPP, president and principal consultant at Healthcare Security Consultants Inc., in Frederick, Colo., agrees with Blair. In the HealthLeaders article he says, “I think a greater number of folks will show up and push for their ‘entitlements,'” which will up the ante for workplace violence in medical centers.”
Although hospitals should prepare for the problems these experts predict, the long-term benefits of healthcare reform far outweigh the short-term problem of a few confused patients with unrealistic expectations.
Another concern expressed in the HealthLeaders article is the burden on hospitals to have enough supplies on hand to care for more patients. Aren’t we limping out of a recession? Is having too much business that much of a problem? It seems there are many consultants and manufacturers who would be happy to take on extra work to help hospitals manage the flow of necessary equipment.
With all the challenges of delivering quality healthcare to U.S. citizens, I don’t think an increased demand for hospital services should be something we fear.