A recent visit to the emergency room of one of our local hospitals brought to light a situation that I was not aware of.
I had fallen in my driveway and sustained a cut on my forehead that required attention, and as a result made a hurried trip to the nearest hospital. I was greeted as soon as I arrived by a very pleasant nurse who quickly ushered me to an examining room. I was given a quick look to determine the extent of my injury.
I was then transported to radiology for a computed tomography scan, then back for further care. A very young and competent ER doctor advised that stitches would be required, and he would be back shortly. “Shortly” turned out to be an hour and 45 minutes.
When he returned, he was very apologetic and said that he had been delayed because of three ambulances that had shown up, each with a patient complaining of various ailments. Since they had come by ambulance, he had to give them priority in spite of the fact that their complaints were specious.
He said little more, but here is what I learned by observation and other sources. Medicaid patients will often call an ambulance for transportation as they know that (1) they will be tended to ahead of patients who make their way to the hospital on their own, and (2) the ride will be free to them.
In the case of the above-mentioned patients, it is doubtful that there was anything wrong with them, and they were making an effort to get a prescription for a narcotic. I don’t imagine that they were successful in their attempts, but I am sure in many cases they are. Even if they don’t, they have tied up the ER staff who have legitimate patients who need care. There I sat, a paying patient, waiting in line behind people who were abusing the system at my expense.
We often wonder why Medicare/Medicaid costs are out of control. This is one example why. The system is being abused by those who are making no contribution to it.