RI must take the lesson of emergency room woes.

The timing could be better, with Rhode Islanders having no opportunity to change direction via the ballot box for two years, but we really need to learn the lesson of overcrowding in our emergency rooms. Namely, among all the various causes, the most significant is socialized medicine:

“We are seeing long visit waits at the local emergency rooms. This is not new; we’ve seen that year after year, and we are back into it again,” Ana Novais, acting secretary of the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) said Thursday. …

Novais said hospitals are also facing additional challenges, including behavioral health needs for both pediatric and adult patients, emergency department overcrowding, and a national shortage of health care workers. …

“Not every issue needs to be treated in the emergency departments. Many health issues can be treated quickly and effectively by a primary care provider, an urgent care facility, or in another community clinic,” said Dr. Philip Chan, Consultant Medical Director of the R.I. Department of Health.

True, we don’t have “socialized medicine” in the sense that doctors’ paychecks come from the government, but the number of regulations — from personnel certification to “certificate of need” regulations that limit the number of hospitals to mandated coverages in insurance plans to taxpayer subsidized health care plans — amounts very nearly to the same thing, at this point.  And government control introduces two problems.  First, this type of organization obscures the pricing mechanism, which only means the market is being organized without accurate information.  Second, the political urge to please special interests and buy votes inevitably distorts decision-making, whether or not information is accurate.

So, the fact that professional licenses from other states aren’t immediately valid in Rhode Island is just one method by which established players boost the price for their services, but then this bump in pay comes into competition with the fact that the job can be very difficult in short-staffed environments.  The fact that many people pay little or nothing for services means they have no reason to seek care in more-appropriate settings when they find others more convenient.  And the fact that procedures are required to be covered adds cost to everybody’s insurance (increasing the drive to “get your money’s worth” by every means) and reduces the incentive to limit use of those mandated services.

Yet, articles like Alexandra Leslie’s WPRI link above treat crises simply as something that is happening, to which officials must find a solution.  The solution is for officials to stop trying to find solutions!  They will only make things continually worse until the system is entirely unsustainable.


Featured image by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash.

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