Doing What ObamaCare Can’t

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


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While the scheme to furnish nationalized health care struggles with its infinite complex of programs, as well as the broad public distaste for the law, an array of private-enterprise health-care systems already is at work curing ailments and saving lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars.

A Sept. 7 Bloomberg Businessweek health report estimates $4.4 billion a year could be saved in health costs totally unrelated to federalized ObamaCare., a RAND Corp. study found. And that amount is just by patients using low-cost private-sector health facilities instead of hospital emergency rooms. Probably much more money than that will be saved by medical treatments in Urgent Care Centers, free clinics, and expanding retail and corporate health clinics. Some doctors have benefited by having a place to send non-acute patients.

Federal dollars generously have been dumped into primary health-care services to medically underserved communities and populations, including migrants, homeless, and residents in public housing for 40 years. These Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) provide a range of services. Since Obama took office, these community centers for the poor have been given $2 billion from the stimulus package. The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the association lobbying for the FQHCs. is looking for an additional $11 billion subsidy for its 1,200 centers for its activities from 2011 to 2014.

NACHC claimed in a June 28 press release it would reduce public spending for emergency room treatments by $24 billion in avoidable hospital-based care. But private-sector clinics and health centers—rather than those Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)—probably will be helping make possibly even greater savings for Americans.

The General Accountability Office (GAO) found that 72 percent of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) had costs above government payment limits. NACHC complained of the problem, so typical of living under government-dictated pricing, when it grumbled that “the majority of health centers, and indeed patients who rely on them for care, are negatively impacted by this outdated payment mechanism.”

A prime example of private enterprise at work in the health field is Urgent Care Centers. They provide walk-in, extended-hour access for acute illness and injury care that is either beyond the scope or availability of the typical primary care practice or retail clinic. Approximately 8,500 urgent care centers are scattered around the country. “Urgent Care Centers have more than 100 million visits a year, with 85 percent of the Centers open 7 days a week. More than 85 percent of the Centers have at least one physician on site at all times.

The mean reimbursement per patient visit for urgent care is $103. The urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) was founded in 2004 and “represents 3,200 professionals working in urgent care,” according to Lou Ellen Horwitz, the association’s executive director. Wait times to see a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant are said to be less than 15 minutes for 17 percent of the patients, between 15 and 45 minutes for 67 percent of patients.

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  • Lori

    Many Small Area Hospitals cannot even treat you when you go to them! They Have No One who will Be accountable! I see it all the time in small towns, and areas in A state were they have Million Dollar Hospitals, And will not Be accountable for Care! the Doctors are around but refuse you care! depending on who you are! and you go into A emergency Room, and at times you cannot even be treated they refuse you! But they Bill Medicare and Medicaid! For your visit and Then Tax Payers pay for Treatment that was never given! what is wrong with this Picture? Million Dollar Hospitals! That will say come here! Come Here! But Go Away! Away! We cannot help you have A Nice day! We will send medicare the Bill! A lot of waste and Fraud! But They are government regulated! They will just keep applying for those Block Grants! And will not be accountable! So Who Will Be accountable?

  • Taquoshi

    Actually, our local hospital has a new program that offers deep discounts for emergency services for those of us who are without health insurance if you pay within ten days. We just had a major medical emergency last week and the bill for the four hour ER visit alone would have been over $2,500. With the prompt pay, I was able to pay it off and "save" almost 60%, which will go towards paying for the other services our family member received.

    Is it putting a major dent in our finances? Yes. But I wrote the check with thanksgiving since I know all too well how much it would have cost otherwise. We are fortunate that I was able to have the finances available to use this, but I also realize that it saves the hospital on paperwork, and staff time.

    The cost of government control, interference and regulation is what has pushed the cost of health care so high. Also, the number of illegal aliens who use the ER for their primary care adds to the problem.

    Primary care and Urgent care centers, along with Community Health Care centers are helping to take the burden off the hospitals. Plus alot of the Community Health Care centers have a sliding fee scale, but no one should depend on the Community Development Block Grants because the amount of federal dollars is dwindling before our very eyes.

    As more and more people lose their health insurance benefits, I think that the situation will correct itself. The largest cost for almost any municipality in terms of budget is usually the educational system. That is followed by employee retirement costs and (drum roll, please) health care. Our local municipalities are struggling to deal with this, as are many others across the nation. I don't think Obamacare is the answer. I think that the private sector has to take a deep breath and back away from using Federal dollars, and grants in order to run their hospitals on income they generate.