Much of the ongoing healthcare reform debate has focused on unnecessary healthcare expenses—specifically, medical bills that rack up without demonstrably improving people’s health. According to Peter Orszag, the director of the Federal Office of Management and Budget, about $700 billion, or 5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, is wasted on unnecessary care, such as extra costs related to medical errors, defensive medicine, and just plain fraud.
At the center of this discussion are “unnecessary” ER visits for minor conditions—colds, headaches, and feverish babies—that could be handled more cheaply in doctors’ offices. If we could only convince patients to take their stubbed toes to urgent care clinics or primary care offices instead of ERs, the thinking goes we could save a load and help fix this whole healthcare fiasco. But there are a few problems with this logic. See:
Are most emergency room visits really unnecessary? – By Zachary F. Meisel and Jesse M. Pines, Slate Magazine
It’s a short, well-written article. It makes some good points and being an EM doctor I happen to agree with most of them, specifically that a lot of money is spent in medicine on procedures of uncertain (at best) benefit. The fix is probably correct, too, though I don’t see Americans jumping on changing their sedentary, easy lifestyles (that includes me.)
*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*