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Who truly covers emergency care

November 01, 2009

Re: "How healthcare reform affects you," Oct. 18:

I'd like to clear up two myths about payment for hospital emergency room care to uninsured patients.

First, ER services are not free of charge.

The patients are billed and hospitals pursue collection on these accounts, including reporting to credit agencies. The only patients who get free care this way are those who have no means of paying and no assets or wages that might be attached, who do not care about ruined credit or who make themselves scarce enough to avoid paying.

Second, it is an error to imply that such uncompensated care is paid for by "taxpayers" (implicitly, the government) from public funds.

This care is, in fact, paid for by all other patients with insurance or who otherwise pay their bills, and by insured persons who may never be patients but who have purchased individual coverage or who, with their employers, pay insurance premiums that are necessarily inflated to subsidize the uncompensated care and government programs.

It would be more correct to say, broadly, that the rest of society pays for uncompensated emergency care than to say government funds directly subsidize it.

Leslie C. Young

Oak Park

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