Bureaucracy, not billionaires, keeps our emergency rooms full

Bureaucracy, not billionaires, keeps our emergency rooms full

New York City emergency rooms are always swamped with patients, many of whom are lying on stretchers in the hallways. When a health care provider passes, some will raise their hands, wave, shout or try in any way they can get a doctor, nurse or physician’s assistant’s attention. All US ERs must take all comers, and there is no shut-off valve at the triage desk, so despite how clogged it is, still the patients come.

Ken Langone is not someone who seeks special attention for himself; in fact, he prides himself on his humble roots. He was evacuated down the stairs by stretcher during Superstorm Sandy back in 2012 during a hospitalization for pneumonia along with many others and was not given special treatment.

In fact, it was Langone, in one of his greatest philanthropic moves, who spearheaded the drive to raise the money to make NYU Grossman School of Medicine tuition-free. As part of this effort, he donated $100 billion himself in 2019. It was this trend-setting move that was soon copied by other medical schools and took the pressure off so many of our future doctors around the country, allowing them to altruistically choose primary care medical careers for lesser salaries than some specialists receive without the chokehold of millions of thousands of dollars in tuition loan repayments hanging over their head. Contrast this with the Biden plan to give $10,000 in tuition relief for everyone, currently blocked by the US Supreme Court as they deliberate on its future, another shortsighted government payout without an endgame or long-term strategy attached.

Speaking of shortsighted initiatives, health care policies enacted under President Obama and now extended under President Biden are at least partly responsible for the mess we are seeing in today’s hospitals. It is not being kind or even occasionally providing VIP care to charitable donors as recent reporting suggests is the real problem. It’s extending one-size-fits-all insurance coverage that pays a hospital and its doctors poorly while overwhelming them with massive amounts of bureaucratic paperwork which interferes with patient care.

Now President Biden is proposing to make it easier to buy the same faulty Obamacare plans that are clogging our ERs for those who lose Medicaid coverage (18 million) if the coronavirus public health emergency expires in April 2023. The problem with so many of these individual plans under the Affordable Care Act is that they rely on narrow networks of physicians and massive deductible roadblocks which give a suddenly ill patient nowhere else to go to seek care than the emergency room. This is one reason our ERs are so overcrowded.

The solution is more philanthropy like Langone’s not more foolish tax expenditures like Biden’s. The solution is not to mock a special room where a patient with a real emergency can be seen quickly or someone famous like a US senator can be treated privately while receiving needed care. Langone himself should be praised, not scolded. His name belongs on the buildings where he has done so much to support high-quality care and research. Those who work there are honored to be associated with his name.

Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health. He is a Fox News medical correspondent and author of the new book, “COVID; the Politics of Fear and the Power of Science.”

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