False Names Used By Uninsured Emergency Department Patients

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The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, as part of a series titled "Falling Through: Casualties of the Health Insurance Crisis," examined how some emergency department patients register under false names because they do not have health insurance and cannot afford to pay for care.

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The article profiled a 27-year-old man who three years earlier experienced a sudden elevated heart rate and called 911. After the paramedics arrived, they found his heart rate had increased to 190 beats per minute, and his heart rate later reached 250 beats per minute. The man told the paramedics not to take him to the ED because he had no health insurance. According to the man, the paramedics encouraged him to leave all forms of identification and personal items with his friend and register at the ED under a false name. The paramedics took the man to the ED, where he received treatment for supraventricular tachycardia, a form of heart-rhythm disorder that physicians attributed to exhaustion and consumption of large amounts of coffee.

Ken Braithwaite, executive director of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, said that uncompensated hospital care has increased significantly in recent years. Braithwaite said that cases in which ED patients register under false names are "not prevalent" but occur on a "routine basis," adding that "it's a very sad reflection on our society that people feel that they would have to make up a name to go into the hospital" (Vitez, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/9).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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