Hospitals and ED docs in Washington have vociferously objected to this patently stupid plan but so far the state’s Medicaid boss [a doctor] is standing firm.
In addition to the obvious problem of not knowing whether a patient is sick or not before he is examined, what is an ED doc supposed to do if an ambulance brings in a Medicaid patient with a cold? Should the patient be refused entry into the ED?
That probably would not be wise because of a federal law known as EMTALA [Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act]. From the website EMTALA.com: “EMTALA requires most hospitals to provide an examination and needed stabilizing treatment, without consideration of insurance coverage or ability to pay, when a patient presents to an emergency room for attention to an emergency medical condition.”
What happens if EMTALA is violated? “A hospital which negligently violates the statute may be subject to a civil money penalty (i.e., a fine, but without criminal implications) of up to $50,000 per violation. If the hospital has fewer than 100 beds, the maximum penalty is $25,000 per violation.”
Anyone who works in a hospital knows that EDs are being inundated with patients who don’t really have emergencies, but shifting the blame and cost to the hospitals and EDs is not the answer.
Like many issues today, personal responsibility is no longer expected or required. The Medicaid card is the “everything” card. Get one and you’re all set. I worked in a city hospital for several years. The Medicaid patients had absolutely no interest in controlling costs. They knew that if they went to an ED, they had to be examined and treated.
Assuming that there are enough primary care doctors, accountable care organizations or “medical homes” in the State of Washington to accommodate the no longer ED-bound Medicaid population [a factor that apparently no one has brought up], wouldn’t it make more sense to shift the responsibility of deciding whether they should go to an ED to the patients themselves?
But that would require some restrictions on the “everything” card. I doubt that any politician or bureaucrat would have the balls to even suggest, much less implement, such a policy.