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Report Card: D+ for US Emergency Care

Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 07:33 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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It's enough to make you sick.

A report card on the state of emergency medical care in the U.S. gets a near failing grade of D+ — and the prognosis for 2014 may drop to an F, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"As more and more Americans come to rely on emergency departments for their acute care needs, particularly aging and sick Boomers and people newly enrolled in Medicaid, such care will increasingly become harder to access," the report said.

"Despite hoped-for changes and improvements, the environment has not improved; it has, in fact, gotten worse," according to the report.

Not one state earned an A. The District of Columbia ranked first with an A-; Wyoming came in dead last, according to the report.

Nationwide, emergency care scored a slightly higher C- in  2009.

The grades were based on five factors; access to emergency care, D; quality and patient safety environment, C;  medical liability environment, C-; public health and injury prevention, C; and disaster preparedness, C, the report said.

One of the reasons the emergency medical system is flunking is the widespread practice of "defensive medicine," in which doctors are overly cautious because of potential liability and fears of being sued in cases where there is a greater chance something could go wrong, according to a Business Insider analysis of the report.

In addition, there aren't enough ER doctors nor enough monitoring of prescription drug use — in 2011 there were 1.5 million emergency room visits resulting from drug abuse.

The number of emergency rooms has declined by 11 percent from 1955 to 2010 even as more people are seeking medical assistance from them, Business Insider said.

Nationwide disaster preparedness got a C-.

"Despite real and present threats . . . in many communities capacity is already stretched to the limit, and hospital bed surge capacity, staffing, and resources are inadequate to respond to the extraordinary demands precipitated by any disaster," the reported said.

Obamacare may inadvertently add to the problem of emergency care. Reports indicate people with health insurance tend to visit the ER more frequently, not less and Baby Boomers will end up in the ER more frequently as they grow older and sicker, the ACEP reported.

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