Public Backs Higher ED Funding

As the health care reform debate rages in Washington, D.C., a new Harris Interactive survey found two-thirds of those polled said the government should increase funding to emergency departments (EDs) in order to hire more doctors and expand vital lifesaving services. In addition, 81 percent said emergency care benefits should be included as part of any government-sponsored health insurance plan being designed by Congress and the Obama administration.

"This is the strongest evidence yet that the public supports significant reforms to help emergency patients," said Dr. Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Emergency physicians treat 120 million patients each year--nearly one-third of the national population--yet our policymakers are not focused on addressing emergency care in the health care reform discussions. This comes at a time when emergency departments are closing at rapid rates and overcrowding is increasing dramatically. Emergency care consumes only three percent of the nation's $2 trillion in health care expenditures, but is a priceless public resource."

Half of those polled (51 percent) say emergency department care should be one of the top priorities for the administration and Congress when it comes to developing a government-sponsored health insurance plan. Nearly two-thirds (67 percent) expressed concerns about the length of times people wait to see emergency physicians, and more than half (55 percent) expressed concerns about the availability of staff and resources in the emergency department in their community such as nurses, doctors, and laboratory equipment. Fifty-five percent are also concerned that general overcrowding in the ED is becoming a problem.

"We stand firmly behind the president’s health care reform principles,” Jouriles said. "Having said that, you cannot solve America's health care dilemma without also taking a long, hard look at the state of emergency care. In a year in which the first pandemic in 41 years has been declared (the H1N1 virus), it is shortsighted at best and dangerous at worst not to shore up our nation's safety net, the emergency medical care system."

Jouriles adds that emergency departments are a health care safety net for everyone, whether insured or uninsured, rich or poor. Because one in three Americans needs emergency care each year, including emergency care in health care reform will benefit every American in his or her time of need, according to ACEP. To get the complete survey results, contact Mike Baldyga at mbaldyga@acep.org.

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