An article in the NY Times today discussed the story of a TBI victim who was repatriated to his Latin American home for care after a stay that cost $1.5 million. Arguments from most people said that the hospital was dumping the patient, since their agreement to accept Medicare and Medicaid obligated them to care for this person.
The other unspoken mandate behind this story is EMTALA, which requires hospitals that have Emergency Departments to treat and stabilize patients with emergency conditions--in this case, two broken femurs, internal injuries, and a head injury. This mandate is poorly funded, as well.
Medicare payed $80,000 of the $1.5 million.
That's why I said no winners. What was the hospital supposed to do? No long-term care facility will take this patient that requires intensive rehab; their hospital, like ours, costs roughly 2K per night for an inpatient. Is that a good use of resources? The hospital shouldn't 'dump', but if emergency care is mandated then all of the downstream consequences must be mandated as well, including follow-up care, and, wait for it...reimbursed.
We have a serious discussion on our hands in this election. Do we change how we care for everyone regardless of insurance coverage in the ED, and continue to have these situations? Or do we stop seeing people without coverage? I vote for funding the current mandate because I love the fact that I see people regardless of who they are based on need. I don't love getting reimbursed at a 5% rate.