Magazine article USA TODAY

Emergency Care Payments Dropping

Magazine article USA TODAY

Emergency Care Payments Dropping

Article excerpt

Payments for emergency care have declined substantially in recent years, according to a study by the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Ill. Researchers note the most striking decreases in reimbursement rates among privately insured persons and concluded that "cost shifting" is an increasingly tenuous financial strategy to find care for the uninsured.

"The study shows that only a little more than half of all emergency department charges are paid and that these payments continue to spiral downwards," notes CWRU's Rita K. Cydulka, an emergency physician at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. "Declining payment rates increasingly threaten the ability of emergency departments to provide emergency care to all regardless of ability to pay."

Based on data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a national representative survey of the U S population conducted by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the researchers determined that, from 1996 to 1998, the rate of payment for emergency department charges dropped from 60% to 53% The largest shift in payments was observed among the privately insured, whose payments decreased from 75% of charges to 63%. …

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