When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

25 October 2006

Free basic care for the uninsured may lower hospital costs

Unable to afford health insurance, Dee Dee Dodd had for years been mixing occasional doctor visits with clumsy efforts to self-manage her insulin-dependent diabetes, getting sicker all the while.

In one 18-month period, Ms. Dodd, 38, was rushed almost monthly to the emergency room, spent weeks in the intensive care unit and accumulated more than $191,000 in unpaid bills.

That is when nurses at the Seton Family of Hospitals tagged her as a “frequent flier,” a repeat visitor whose ailments — and expenses — might be curbed with more regular care. The hospital began offering her free primary care through its charity program.

With the number of uninsured Americans reaching a record 46.6 million last year, up by 7 million from 2000, Seton is one of a small number of hospital systems around the country to have done the math and acted on it. Officials decided that for many patients with chronic diseases, it would be cheaper to provide free preventive care than to absorb the high cost of repeated emergencies.
Ahhhhh... someone's finally starting to get it.

The failure to provide basic, preventive care for the uninsured costs everyone more in the long run, especially hospitals, who are legally obligated to provide treatment for anyone who shows up at the ER door.

In other words, providing subsidized health care for the chronically ill poor is an economically sound decision, and an eminently defensible fiscally-conservative position.

To Lower Costs, Hospitals Try Free Basic Care For The Uninsured; New York Times, October 25 2006

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