The Cost of Emergency Room Care

By John Perryman, M.D.
The New York Times, May 27, 2018

Anthem’s tactic of refusing to pay emergency room bills in certain cases is portrayed as an effort to influence patient behavior and avoid the most costly medical setting for minor ailments. Asking frightened patients to diagnose their illnesses without the benefit of training is absurd on its face.

Anthem, like most health insurers, is obligated to maximize the wealth of its shareholders. The company has been very successful in this regard, generating profits of $3.8 billion in 2017, and paying an effective tax rate of 3.1 percent, according to Healthcare Finance.

The practice of threatening not to cover an E.R. visit is consistent with this goal. What does it matter if a few patients die or are injured because they are afraid of getting hit with a large medical bill? Profits jumped by 55 percent in 2017!

When third-party payers are driven to be profitable, these types of incentives result. This ridiculous, immoral situation is yet another reason the United States must adopt a single-payer health system.

The writer is a pediatrician from St. Charles, Ill.