Graham advises us that EMTALA “is a good law,” then gives us several reasons to regard it as an exceptionally bad piece of legislation:

The problem with EMTALA is that it provides too much potential for abuse … If you were to look online or eavesdrop in a doctor’s lounge, likely “abuse of medical resources by certain patients? would be near the top a frequency-of-complaining list.

So far so good. And then there’ the drain on hospital resources:

 The other problem with EMTALA is an unfunded mandate. This means that hospitals are required to follow the rules of EMTALA no matter what the cost may be to the individual hospital.

Right again. In fact, it costs individual hospitals so much to provide free care to these patients that many close their ERs altogether.  Unpaid ER bills comprise about 80% of bad debt losses for a typical community hospital.

And, because it effectively drives the cost of an ER visit to zero for anyone who doesn’t wish to pay, EMTALA is also largely responsible for the overcrowding that has degraded the effectiveness of ERs across the country.

Being a typical ”progressive,” however, Graham’s preferred solution for the EMTALA boondoggle is predictable—raise taxes. He suggests robbing the taxpayers and throwing their money at the problem:

If the federal government (read: taxpayers) had to start paying for EMTALA care … we would immediately see the true costs, and take actions to fix it.

No, Graham, the way to quell the demand for inappropriate care is remove the perverse incentive. And bad laws are repealed or (more often) modified all the time. That’s why you can buy liquor without going to a Speakeasy. 

EMTALA is “a good law” only if you are primarily concerned with the intentions of the lawmakers. If you are interested in outcomes, EMTALA is a pig’s breakfast.

Comments 2

  1. Graham wrote:

    Everyone is already being robbed by higher prices to pay for unreimbursed care. Are you suggesting we just repeal EMTALA and let the poor and uninsured die of emergencies?

    Posted 11 Mar 2008 at 8:51 pm
  2. BobMan wrote:

    From atimes.com, March 13, 2008:

    Bad oil news here to stay
    By Michael T Klare

    “What, then, will be the lasting consequences of higher energy costs? For the ordinary American consumer the answer is simple, if grim: A diminished quality of life, as discretionary expenses disappear in the face of higher costs for transportation, home heating, and electricity, not to speak of basics like food (for which, from fertilizers to packaging, oil is a necessity). For the poor and elderly, the implications are dire: In some cases, it will undoubtedly mean choosing among heat in winter, adequate nutrition, and medicine.”

    The short answer is: yes the poor and elderly will be sacrificed for “the common good.” The UK is already doing informal medical rationing using age as a key criteria.
    See covertrationingblog.com for details.

    Somebody is going to lose in the medical system of the near future. Only questions are: Who? and Who Decides?

    Posted 12 Mar 2008 at 12:56 pm

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