One of the most oft-cited inefficiencies with our current healthcare system is the whole problem of the uninsured showing up at emergency rooms with minor ailments, or ailments that could have been minor, if only they’d gone to a doctor earlier.
Emergency rooms don’t deny anyone care, so anyone can show up with anything.
Obviously this is horribly inefficient, expensive, and it’s not what emergency rooms were designed for. So you’d think that you could get some big-time savings just be solving this problem alone. Expand coverage, let people go to normal doctors and voila.
But it might not be so easy. Blogging doctor Jay Parkinson makes a good point:
…if 50 million uninsured people become newly insured, ER waiting times should significantly worsen as more newly insured people attempt to find primary care docs to no avail and turn to the “one stop shop” of the ERs simply because they can— now insurance pays for their healthcare.
This is something we’ve hit on — there’s no way you can decrease costs without expanding supply of medical care, since we know resources are already strapped.
If you have a 10-day wait as it is now to see an appointment, think of how much longer you’ll have to wait when, as Dr. Parkinson notes, you’ll be competing for slots with all the newly insured. In the end, you and them will just got to the emergency room.
The planned healthcare reforms have it all exactly backwards. If we want to reduce costs (which would have the affect of expanding coverage) we have to do it on the supply side.
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