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Emergency room spending debunked in this report


Advocates for universal health coverage say the uninsured are costing us big time because of their use of emergency rooms as a substitute for basic healthcare services.

For instance, say our friends at PolitiFact, "Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in August 2009, We have 48 million people with no health care. As a result, they walk into emergency rooms. It's costing every American who is insured $1,100 to pick up the cost of uncompensated care that goes on at the emergency room."

Other Democrats who've pointed to the use of ERs as a reason for health reform include Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Barack Obama in 2009

Then Nick Gillespie, the editor of Reason.com, a libertarian publication, said something no one had before: ER costs actually represent a tiny share of health care spending. Is he right?

PolitiFact checked it out. Gillepsie took his statistics from a calculation made by the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Obviously, this is a group with a dog in the fight," writes PolitiFact, "but the calculation they made was pretty straightforward and is based on federal data.

"The group used figures from 2008 collected by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a study undertaken by a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. The survey found that the total amount of money spent on emergency care -- including physician and other emergency-room services -- was $47.3 billion. That’s slightly less than 2 percent of the same survey’s $2.4 trillion estimate of total health care expenditures that year."

Experts generally agreed with Gillespie. Those who would have derived their numbers differently still gave estimates of 10 percent or less.  

PolitiFact rates the statement "Mostly True." Read the story.



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