The trouble with free-standing ERs
Regarding the May 8 front-page article “Detaching the ER from the hospital”:
Our health-care system is plagued by a crisis of high costs, unequal access and poor (as compared with other countries that spend far less per capita) outcomes. Richard Yount, who opened a freestanding emergency room, sought to develop a service where “money just fell in your lap.” Mr. Yount and political and business leaders seem to believe that health care is like any other consumer good and that it is okay to let companies reap large profits from patients with the personal assets or insurance coverage to pay premium rates for services they may not need. They also accept that other providers, who have a moral commitment or regulatory obligation, will provide care to the less fortunate, often at a financial loss.
Free-standing ERs divert well-funded patients from community and other hospitals that form the health-care safety net for the poor, the elderly, the uninsured and the medically complex. These freestanding ERs also increase the cost of care by duplicating and often under-utilizing high-cost equipment and by competing for scarce personnel in order to treat the privileged few.
The new administration asserts that the “free market” and entrepreneurial innovation can solve the problems of our health-care system. If freestanding ERs and fortune seekers such as Mr. Yount represent the best that the market can provide, we are all in trouble. Roberta Shapiro, Washington