To help ensure the nation has a strong emergency care system, the American College of Emergency Physicians supports comprehensive health care reform that includes:
Every person in America must have meaningful and affordable health insurance coverage provided through a combination of employer and individually mandated insurance. It should be means tested, allowing those in need to receive coverage or financial support to buy insurance. A combination of private sector and governmental solutions may be needed to achieve universal coverage. America is experiencing a dramatically rising tide of uninsured and underinsured patients. Emergency physicians are the only doctors in the country required by federal law to treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay. It is a responsibility we embrace proudly, but many emergency departments and physician groups are closing under the burden of uncompensated care.
Health care costs must be reduced. Significant medical liability reform is needed to eliminate unnecessary, expensive tests known as “defensive medicine.” Liability reform can also help increase the availability of critically needed on-call specialists. Widespread adoption of electronic health records could substantially cut costs and improve patient care if there were complete integration of data between the emergency department and other medical settings. Administrative and overhead costs must be reduced.
Quality and patient safety must be improved by eliminating the practice of “boarding” admitted patients in emergency department hallways until they are transferred to an in-patient hospital bed. This can be achieved by establishing quality standards that define how quickly admitted patients are moved to their appropriate care settings, with such information reported and available to the public.
A national surge capacity plan must be developed and resources provided to prepare our nation’s hospital emergency departments for public health crises such as the H1N1 pandemic, a terrorist attack or other catastrophes.