By Brian L. Grant, MD
Emergency rooms sit on the front lines of the health care payment crisis. On the one hand, they must provide care to all who come – by law, custom and ethics. On the other hand, the care is expensive and many can’t afford to pay. Many of the uninsured use ER’s as their care sources rather when they lack access to clinics and physicians. Creative companies have found ways to profit and help pay for the care provided. In this case, one such company crossed the line of decency and legality. Our fee for service health care system assumes that personal responsibility and solvency can be relied upon. Is society served by financial triage for essential or urgent medical needs?
One day not too far off, stories such as the one featured in the New York Times article “Medical Debt Collector to Settle Suit for $2.5 Million” will be looked at with the same shame we feel towards the discrimination practiced in our country based upon race and other factors in past decades. We would regard it as abhorrent to deny access to K-12 education for the poor. Why do we believe that different standards ought to apply to access to health care? Why should employers have the burden and responsibility of providing health care for their employees, rather than this be a basic part of the social contract as members of society?
Do we as citizens and particularly those of us who have chosen to enter the field of health care have obligations beyond caring for our patients – to address systemic shortcomings and abuses the adversely impact the public health? Or is medicine just a job, and our goals to maximize profit?
Read more here: “Medical Debt Collector to Settle Suit for $2.5 Million”