In health reform, fix inequity that saddles emergency care

(Regarding article “Healthcare fight begins,” April 28.) As Congress gears up for the fight over healthcare reform, we urge everyone in both parties not to forget the 120 million Americans who need emergency care each and every year. The nation’s emergency departments are the backbone of the overall healthcare system. That has never been more apparent than during this economic crisis as more and more Americans are out of work and losing their health insurance.

Yet the federal mandate that guarantees emergency care for everyone does not require health insurance companies, governments or individuals to pay for these services. At the same time, health insurance companies are being investigated by Congress for their deceptive billing practices of underpaying physician claims and passing along billions of dollars in costs to consumers and healthcare providers.

This lack of reimbursement and under-reimbursement for emergency care plus the closure of emergency rooms are taking their toll. Overcrowded emergency departments compromise patient safety and threatening everyone’s access to lifesaving emergency care. The situation is worsening, and patients are suffering. In a poll taken more than a year ago, it was reported that 200 emergency patients died because of overcrowding. That is a national disgrace and should serve as a wakeup call to every representative preparing for the battle for healthcare reform.

On behalf of the nation’s emergency physicians, I urge President Obama and Congress to act now! It is imperative that Congress hold hearings on the state of emergency medicine and pass legislation to address the severe problems facing all emergency patients. It could mean your life or the life of someone you love.

Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Implementing health IT

From Joseph Ingemi,
owner, Pinarus Technologies

Capital funding has been cited as a primary reason for hospitals failing to adopt healthcare information-technology. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides some follow-up funding for hospitals that demonstrate adoption and “meaningful use” of health IT, but a sustainable system of initial investment is still lacking.

Congress should explore options for creating such a system. Two examples being used provide models:

Sallie Mae, which provides loans for college students, was once a government-sponsored entity (GSE) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is now private. A similar entity might be set up for providing loans for hospitals to invest in healthcare IT. Since a GSE might not be prudent in these economic times, the federal government might provide seed funding for the establishment of a private entity.

A second model is based on general-purpose municipal bonds. The federal government again could provide resources for each state to create a hospital health IT fund. The state then could issue tax-free bonds backed by this fund. These bonds would be considered high risk.

Congress must establish the proper mechanism for ensuring that investments are sustainable with private-sector support.  Only then, may we see the “tipping point” for health IT investment.

Hammonton, N.J.

If Maine sens. follow Specter, anything goes

From Sharon I. Rideout

I find Sen. Arlen Specter’s (Pa.) switcheroo to be no surprise. He might have saved a bit more face if he had announced as an Independent, but now he shows his true, spineless, greedy, senile self.

His statements about being concerned for America and her people are just such hogwash, as he already proven when going with the Democrats on the stimulus package (and that goes for my Republican senators from Maine — Olympia Snowe and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril Romney backs Laura Bush on border: 'We need a more compassionate answer' Amnesty International rips family separation policy: 'This is nothing short of torture' MORE — also).

Actually, I wonder if my senators will join him and make it a definite filibuster-proof Senate, so that anything will go in the next four (or maybe eight) years. I am outraged that so many stand for so little for so long!

Hermon, Maine

A tad hasty

From Linda Nabokov

(Regarding column “Obama sows seeds of demise,” April 29.) Dick Morris understandably wants to remain relevant. Predicting that President Obama will land in the dust pan of history in his first year of office by quoting skewed polls and audiences who watch Fox News reminds me of the music critic who panned one of Beethoven’s symphonies. Now what was his name?

Los Angeles