David Gray MD: Something stinks in health care
September 24, 2009
Re: Mr. Hill’s account of his visit to our local ER in March of this year (Letters, Sept. 23): $10,000 for a two hour visit, for a cracked rib! I will take Mr. Hill’s version of things at face value. I will not presume to second guess the Emergency Physician who attended him-I wasn’t there.
But, as a board-certified emergency physician, I am not at all surprised. This happens many times, every day, in emergency rooms all across this country. This case reeks of defensive medicine. Again, in deference to the ER doc, if not this one, then the other 90 percent. The thought process, for the doctor, goes like this; “If this patient leaves the ER and falls, I have to be able to prove that when I saw him he only had one broken rib.” Unless, and until we address run-away costs in medicine, any efforts at reform will simply be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our fear, as doctors, of lawsuits is one of the principle drivers of those costs. Mr. Hill’s story is only one of many.
I would suggest the following: Mr. Hill, send a medical release to the Summit Daily, so that your ER doc will be free to discuss your case, and then challenge him or her to explain the reasoning behind the treatment approach, in the paper. You, sir, learned it the hard way. It is only through a very open, and a very honest dialogue that the public will truly understand the effect that legal predation of the medical profession has on the out-of-control costs of health care. If the doc takes the challenge, then I would ask him/her to be brutally honest. That is not happening in Washington these days – the controlling party will not take a chance on offending its Sugar-Daddy, the trial lawyers. This is not to excuse the other party; they are equally insulated from the woes of our broken health system. Our Sen. Bennet, and President Obama were asked if they would participate, with their families, in the system they design for us. Sen. Bennet wouldn’t answer, and the president flat said “no.”
Mr. Hill, your altruism in not taking over-advantage of your Medicare benefits and by swearing off the ER is noble, but why should you suffer? Your exposure of your experience may be very helpful. The only thing that may be more helpful is that something similar might happen to the president, or a congressman or two. Legal reform is only the first step in health care reform – insurance should be next.