As an emergency physician in Georgia, South Carolina & North Carolina I am deeply concerned about the condition of our healthcare system. I practice in several hospital ERs in Evans, Liberty, Wayne and Screven counties in Georgia, in Marlboro county in SC and Yadkin & Ashe counties in NC. As you are aware, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services manages physician reimbursement for the Federal Medicare program. As a component of the process to reduce healthcare costs, Medicare reimbursement rates are scheduled to be reduced by 12% on January 1, 2008. This is part of a legislative mandate initiated several years ago in an attempt to manage federal healthcare costs.
I am deeply concerned about the state of our country’s emergency care system and the healthcare safety net we provide to all of our citizens. Every day, our patients, your constituents, come to our departments in search of life saving care. They are forced to deal with a system that is overcrowded, understaffed, under funded and stretched to the breaking point.
The Institute of Medicine Report on the State of Emergency Healthcare (released in June 2006) pointed out the need for major changes in our system. Only Congress can make these changes.
Our emergency healthcare system is woefully unprepared to manage a pandemic flu outbreak, natural disaster or terrorist attack. While billions have been spent on disaster planning and preparedness, virtually none has gone to emergency medical care. Congress must recognize the role of emergency physicians and nurses in responding to natural and man made disasters.
The report also describes the increasing responsibilities of hospital emergency departments in caring for uninsured patients and insured patients unable to access their physicians. While the number of patients visiting emergency departments between 1993 and 2004 rose from 93 million to 114 million; the number of emergency departments decreased by over 1000. This is not the time to reduce the financial and healthcare resources available to our providers and patients.
HR 882/S1003, the “Access to Emergency Medical Services Act of 2007”, addresses the 3 major issues addressed in the IOM Report:
1) Gridlock in the Emergency Department due to the practice of boarding admitted patients until in patient beds become available,
2) physician shortages due to the liability risk of caring for emergency patients, and
3) the continuing decline in payment for emergency care which reduces patient care resources.
I urge you to cosponsor and support the passage of HR 882/S1003, The Access to Emergency Medical Services Act of 2007. This act supports amendment to the Medicare Sustainable Growth formula to eliminate the pending 12% decrease in Medicare Fee Schedule, and proposes congressional hearings to address the problems in our emergency healthcare system.
Thank you for your support.
Medical Director - ED
Marlboro Park Hospital