I read with interest Dr. David Baehren’s opinion piece on the EMTALA mandate requiring that emergency physicians provide free care to those unable to afford it (“Let My People Go,” ACEP News, April 2012, p. 2). Dr. Baehren sees this as “economic slavery” perpetrated by the federal government against emergency physicians.
But this misses the larger point – that we have a health care “system” that tolerates 52 million uninsured and 29 million underinsured Americans. Medical bills are the top cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, the only wealthy democracy that fails to guarantee health coverage for all its citizens.
A solution that deserves serious study is a unified Medicare-for-All system, one which would eliminate the massive inefficiencies and profit-taking of the private insurance industry while guaranteeing coverage for all.
Dr. Baehren is correct that emergency physicians should be paid for the work we do. But we also must forcefully advocate for a just health care system that includes all Americans, such that they can get the care they need without the very real threat of economic catastrophe.
Dr. Dave Dvorak, MPH
Dr. Baehren replies: My column is, by definition, an opinion piece. I am sharing my opinion to provoke thought and conversation. Some of the topics I cover are political. If I express an opinion, there are bound to be some who disagree. My views have never been intended to be a reflection of ACEP, its members, or ACEP News. When I get letters that challenge my opinion, I know that I have done a good job with the essay. I would like everyone to think about these issues and come to their own conclusions and start their own conversations with others.