American College of Emergency Physicians | News Room - Published Letters

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Don’t punish patients for having emergencies

Editor, the Tribune: As Congress debates repeal and replacement of health care reform, there are provisions in the Affordable Care Act that are essential to millions of emergency patients and must be protected. More than nine in 10 registered voters in a recent poll said that health insurance companies should include coverage for emergency medical care.

When asked whether someone who visited an emergency department because they believed they were having a heart attack, but were later diagnosed with a panic attack, should be covered, more than eight in 10 (83 percent) said health insurance plans should cover the visit. The principle of covering medical care based on symptoms that most people would consider potentially life-threatening, rather than the final diagnosis, is called the “prudent layperson” standard. This was codified into federal law, including the Affordable Care Act, after years of denials of coverage for emergency care by health insurance companies.

Patients can’t choose where and when they will need emergency care and shouldn’t be punished for having emergencies. We urge all of our patients to investigate what their health insurance policy covers and make sure that policymakers and insurance companies provide fair and reasonable coverage for emergency care.

Jonathan Heidt, president of Missouri College of Emergency Physicians