There is an emerging problem with the emergency rooms in the United States. It seems that a rising number of Americans are choosing to use the emergency for situations that would not qualify for an emergency room visit. And this is putting a lot of stress on our emergency room physicians, nurses and support staff.
It’s a complicated problem, according to Dr. Eric Forsthoefel. He’s an emergency room physician that has been serving in hospitals in Tallahassee, Florida. He has witnessed the rise of patients using the emergency room for non-urgent matters. And he explains that the problem is very complicated.
First off, the doctor would like to make it clear that he keeps his emergency room door open. He and his staff will not turn anyone away. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel believes that this inclusive policy actually saves lives. He points to the fact that many low-income individuals cannot receive medical care anywhere else. He continues to explain that he and his staff will provide the best quality care to anyone and everyone.
But that opinion is not being shared by many health insurance companies. These companies see the emergency room as a place where they lose a lot of money. In order to save money, some insurance companies are beginning to deny coverage to non-urgent procedures that take place in the emergency room. It seems that the health insurance companies are trying to punish low-income individuals for having poor health care or no health insurance at all.
The problem may not lie with low-income individuals, according to Dr. Eric Forsthoefel. He points to various studies that show high-income individuals and individuals with good health insurance make up 80% of those patients that seek emergency room care for non-emergency injuries or illness. And the doctor believes that primary physicians are the only ones that can stop this emergency room abuse.
Those with good health insurance are using the emergency room to receive primary care out of sheer convenience. Many cite the fact that it is difficult to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician. Some doctors require 24 hours worth of notice and other doctors are booked out for weeks or even months. The emergency room serves as a place where individuals with good health insurance can get quick care.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel wants more primary doctors to work on being more accessible to alleviate the strain put on the emergency rooms. This includes being available during the evenings.
This stands in stark contrast to the popular idea that emergency rooms are full of people “mooching” off the system. Instead, it is the privileged that are abusing the system to convenience. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel believes we need to make primary care more convenient to stop the abuse.