Long lines at nation's ERs are a clear call for reform


Going to a hospital emergency room isn’t something anybody relishes.

And, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control found that the already grim experience is growing worse across America — and that’s even before getting into the ER.

The CDC report found that the wait time for service is rapidly growing. The average wait time in the U.S. is now 56 minutes. A decade ago the average wait was 38 minutes.

In smaller cities such as Walla Walla the wait times are significantly less. In big cities, however, it is common for patients to wait several hours for help.
It’s no mystery why the wait time continues to grow. No, the rush to ERs isn’t happening because people have suddenly become accident prone. A lot more people are visiting emergency rooms while fewer hospitals offer emergency medical care.

ERs are being used more heavily because a growing number of people do not have health-care insurance.

By law, nobody can be denied care at an emergency room even if they don’t have money or insurance. This ensures that people are not left in the waiting room to bleed to death because they can’t pay for care. It’s the only approach to take in a humane, caring society.  Unfortunately, because the cost of health insurance has been rising at a staggering rate, fewer folks can afford it. In addition, a growing number of employers no longer offer insurance or are reducing their contribution to the premiums.

The bottom line is that year after year millions of people find themselves without health insurance. As a result, these folks don’t visit a doctor regularly or get any type of preventative care.

The only way they can afford to go to a doctor is if they don’t have to pay. They go to the ER.

The care, of course, isn’t free. Hospitals pick up the tab and attempt to stop the financial bleeding by passing on some of the costs to those who do have insurance. They raisie the rates for ER visits. The insurance provider then raises its rates.

That results in more people not being able to afford health insurance and, of course, more folks visiting the ER.

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to lose money providing emergency care so they opt to close the door. The high cost of malpractice insurance also contributes to this problem.

If emergency rooms continue to be used for routine medical care by those who have no insurance, the wait time will continue to rise.

This nation must take a hard look at some sort of national health care that will provide at the least basic, preventative medical care to all.

Yes, it will be expensive for government and taxpayers, but so, too, is having people use ER doctors as their primary care physician. That’s something to think about if — or, maybe, when — you experience an hour-plus wait at an emergency room.

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