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Letter: ER costs misunderstood, not properly funded to reimburse emergency physicians

Published: Monday, Oct. 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

I was appalled to see a Deseret News editorial claim a common misconception that emergency care is bankrupting the American health care system ("Emergency room care costs will continue to rise without an alternative," Sept. 27).

The American College of Emergency Physicians estimates that emergency care only accounts for 2 percent of the health care dollar, and only 10 percent of emergency department visits are for non-emergent complaints. Even if we eliminated 99 percent of inappropriate emergency department use, it would be a drop in the bucket toward solving our rapidly rising medical costs.

The problem with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act is not that it requires emergency care to be provided without regard to the patient's ability to pay, but that it isn't appropriately funded to reimburse those who do so. As a result, on average, an emergency physician provides approximately $150,000 in unreimbursed care per year — about six times that of the average doctor.

James Dahle

Sandy

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