Sunday, May 20, 2018
Health

The ER doctor will see you, after you pay $150

Next time you go to an emergency room, you should be prepared for this: If your problem isn't urgent, you may have to pay up front.

Last year, about 80,000 emergency-room patients at hospitals owned by HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, left without treatment after being told they would have to first pay $150 because they did not have a true emergency. Under federal law, hospitals with emergency rooms must treat all comers, but the care isn't free.

HCA officials declined to say which of its hospitals use the practice, but the company owns more than 160 hospitals in 20 states. In the Tampa Bay area, it owns hospitals in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Manatee counties. Led by HCA, a growing number of hospitals have implemented the pay-first policy to divert patients with routine illnesses from the ER after they undergo a federally required screening. At least half of all hospitals nationwide now charge up-front ER fees, said Rick Gundling, vice president of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, which represents health care finance executives.

"It has been a successful part of helping to reduce crowding in emergency rooms and to encourage appropriate use of scarce resources," HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough said. The HCA payment policy excludes children 5 and younger, pregnant women and those 65 and older.

But emergency-room doctors and patient advocates blast the policy as potentially harmful to patients.

Kim Bailey, research director for the consumer group Families USA, said the tactic lets hospitals turn away uninsured patients who often fail to pay their bills and are a drag on profits.

Physicians worry that sick people who do not have private physicians will forgo treatment.

"This is a real problem," said David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who estimated that 2 to 7 percent of patients screened in ERs and found not to have serious problems are admitted to hospitals within 24 hours.

"After you've done the medical screening, it makes little sense to not go ahead and write a patient a prescription," said Michael Zappa, a Boca Raton hospital consultant and former president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians.

"It seems the point of the policy is to put a financial barrier between the patient and care," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group,

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 8 percent of ER visits are for non-urgent problems that could be treated less expensively in a doctor's office or clinic; others put figure much higher. A 2010 Health Affairs study found that 27 percent of those visiting ERs could be treated more cost-effectively at doctors' offices or clinics.

Florida legislators are considering joining states that limit Medicaid reimbursements for non-urgent ER visits.

Comments
U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. regulators Thursday approved the first drug designed to prevent chronic migraines. The Food and Drug Administration’s action clears the monthly shot Aimovig (AIM’-oh-vig) for sale. It’s the first in a new class of long-acting dru...
Published: 05/18/18
Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day, and the American Medical Association is encouraging people to monitor their blood pressure levels and get high blood pressure, or hypertension, under control. High blood pressure, sometimes referred to as the...
Published: 05/17/18
Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Women having trouble getting pregnant sometimes try yoga, meditation or mindfulness, and some research suggests that psychological stress may affect infertility. But what about men: Does their mental state affect a couple’s ability to conceive?The la...
Published: 05/17/18
Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

TAMPA—Tampa General Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in America for the fifth consecutive year, and second best in Florida, according to one health industry website.Tampa General is considered the best hospital in the Tampa area, accor...
Published: 05/16/18
Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Even though a circuit judge has ruled that Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner can grow and juice his own marijuana, he was barred from doing so until the appeals process is finished.So Redner’s lawyers filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court o...
Published: 05/15/18
Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Over the span of three weeks, Brenda Gotlen watched as her abdomen got bigger. Her lower stomach felt bloated."It got to the point that I looked nine months pregnant," said Gotlen, a 62-year-old Seffner resident. She made an appointment to see her pr...
Published: 05/15/18
Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

As some insurers angle for hefty premium hikes and concerns grow that more Americans will wind up uninsured, the federal health law is likely — once again — to play big in both parties’ strategies for the contentious 2018 election.Candidates are alre...
Published: 05/15/18
Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

When he was 14, James Harrison needed surgery. And as he would come to find out, he would also need a significant amount ofstrangers’ blood to survive it.After he had recovered and as soon as he became an adult, Harrison felt compelled to pay it forw...
Published: 05/14/18
UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide

UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide

NEW YORK — The World Health Organization has released a plan to help countries wipe out trans fats from the global food supply in the next five years. The United Nations agency has in the past pushed to exterminate infectious diseases, but now it’s a...
Published: 05/14/18
Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy, high blood pressure in children

Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy, high blood pressure in children

High blood pressure typically occurs in adulthood, so when children develop the condition, it often means something is very wrong. A child might have kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or a heart problem. Obesity can also be a factor.But what about seem...
Published: 05/14/18