Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law - What's Next for EPs?

June 28, 2012

As you may know, today the United States Supreme Court decided to uphold The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (Read the 193-page decision here.)

ACEP President Dr. David Seaberg said that regardless of this decision, the amount of visits to the nation’s emergency department will continue to increase.

“The nation’s emergency physicians fully support the emergency care provisions in the law, such as inclusion of emergency services as an essential part of any health benefits package and the prudent layperson standard, which guarantees that health plans base coverage on the patient’s symptoms, not the final diagnosis," Dr. Seaberg said in a press release. "And regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, it does not change the mission of emergency physicians. We pledge to be there for our patients.

“However, while there are provisions in the law to benefit emergency patients, it is clear that emergency visits will increase, as we have already seen nationwide. There are physician shortages and there are also drug shortages and serious mismatches between patient needs and available resources,” he added.

The College will continue to urge lawmakers and regulatory agencies to ensure that the implementation of the health care reform law does not endanger patient care or threaten the practice of emergency medicine.

“ACEP has worked with — and will continue to work with — members of Congress to find solutions to improve the safety and efficiency of emergency care for all Americans, “ Dr. Seaberg said. “ERs are a critical, life-or-death part of our health care system and ERs need help now. This crisis in emergency care is everyone’s problem, because every person is only one step away from a medical emergency.”

According to the most recent GAO report, emergency patients who need care in 1 to 14 minutes are being seen in more than twice that timeframe -- 37 minutes.

“Significant growth of Medicaid is intended as one of the means of expanding coverage,” he said. “Increasing the number of patients on Medicaid without an equivalent increase in the number of physicians willing to take that insurance will surely increase the flood of patients into our nation’s ERs.

“Coverage does not equal access and critical problems facing emergency patients are not going away,” he continued.

A recent study in Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that crowding in emergency departments is growing twice as fast as the rate of ER visits, principally because emergency patients are showing up sicker and with more complicated health problems.

"As the nation moves forward with implementing the health care reform law, we urge the Senate to follow the lead of the House in repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was included in the law," Dr. Seaberg said. " The IPAB panel does not have any accountability to Congress, health care providers or the public and will harm Medicare patients’ access to medical care."

Dr. Seaberg added that this law also includes medical liability dispute resolution alternatives, but that the scope is extremely limited, which limits its potential effectiveness. America’s medical liability system is broken and without true medical liability reform, patients’ access to lifesaving care will continue to suffer.

ACEP will continue to fight for meaningful medical liability reform and other emergency medicine issues. You can aid in this battle. Contributions to NEMPAC will support candidates who can positively impact emergency physicians and your patient care. Consider donating at the Give-A-shift level for maximum leverage of your PAC contribution.

Participation in the Emergency Medicine Action Fund is now more important than ever. With the Supreme Court decision upholding the law, an avalanche of regulations are being written and emergency physicians desperately need the EM Action Fund to keep them out of the regulatory and legal crossfire between payers, patients, policymakers and hospitals.

The EM Action Fund has unified the house of emergency medicine and become a powerful and influential voice in federal regulatory and legal issues that matter to you and your colleagues. Join the EM Action Fund today.

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