Research shows that uninsured individuals often go to the emergency room to receive medical care. Is this a good use of the emergency room?
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Use of emergency rooms by the uninsured is an extremely inefficient use of health care resources and is one of the reasons why per capita spending on health care in the United States is the highest of all developed nations with the worst outcomes in terms of life expectancy. The first problem with use of emergency rooms as providers of choice is that preventive medicine and catching diseases early is much less expensive than treating them only when they are eligible for emergency care. Treating advanced cancer or complications from advanced diabetes are much more expensive than early detection and treatment. Also, emergency rooms are not set up to cost effectively deliver the sort of care that is normally handled by family physicians, but instead are equipped with substantial specialized technology top deal with things like trauma. This is one of the reasons why universal health care of the sort found in Canada, Europe, Japan, and other developed nations is actually so much cheaper for the nation as a whole than the pre-Obama U.S. model.
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