Friday, November 11, 2011

Washington State Lifts Limits on Medicaid Patient ER Visits

      A few months ago I wrote a blog post about Washington State implementing a law starting October 1, 2011 that limited the amount of ER visits for Medicaid patients to three visits a year.    Many physicians, including myself felt it was extremely dangerous to place these limits on patients.  The  Washington State chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Seattle Children's Hospital, Washington State Medical Association, and the Washington State Hospital Association filed a lawsuit challenging this.  Yesterday the Court lifted the limit on the ER visits.

      Of note,  when they looked closer at the numbers they discovered that 97 percent of Washington's Medicaid clients did't even exceed three ER visits a year. "They blamed a "small, but expensive group" of patients for running up large numbers of visits.  Some of those patients have more than 100 visits a year, often for chronic conditions and a need for painkillers, officials said."

Read more:

State lifts three-visit ER limit for poor patients


  1. Okay, great. But when that "small, but expensive group" shows up, who pays the bills? And if the hospital pays the bills and goes broke doing so, do they get bailed out, or are they allowed to fail?


  2. Now that the law that would limit Medicaid visits has been repealed, Medicaid will still pay the bills for the "small, but expensive group." I personally believe that a better way to try to reduce costs in this population would be to provide more primary care access for these patients so they can avoid using the ER (using the ER is a lot more expensive then going to a primary care doctor). But there are huge shortages of primary care doctors, at that is only going to get worse. We need more primary care doctors, physican assitants, nurse practitioners that can see these patients so that they don't have to go to the ER.