Washington State sued by American College of Emergency Physicians
The state of Washington is being sued by The American College of Emergency Physicians for its new health insurance mandate, allowing only three paid non-emergency visits to the emergency room for low-income Medicaid patients.
In a list published by the state, 700 common symptoms are defined as non-emergency situations, some of which worry emergency room physicians not only in the state of Washington but across the U.S. The list includes difficulty breathing, early-pregnancy hemorrhaging, gall stones, abdominal pains, dizziness and chest pains that are not related to a heart attack.
"The ACEP is opposing the limit primarily because of the list of diagnoses that the state is proposing to be non-emergencies, like chest pains and heart arrhythmias and dysrhythmias, which can result in sudden death, sudden blindness, and hemorrhages during miscarriage," ACEP Washington Chapter president Steve Anderson said in an interview with ABC News.
Stephen Anderson, president of the Washington Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in a statement that the list provided by the state unfairly puts those who use Medicaid in danger.
"This list of non-emergent diagnoses puts patients in danger and unfairly targets the poor and those in most need of care," he said. "We understand that our state Medicaid office is working with 19 other states to develop this policy. If this plan goes into effect, other states will certainly follow suit."
With emergency room costs soaring because of overuse, Washington state enacted the new policy to cut back on emergency room costs. The legislature expects to save the state $35 million with the new three-visit limit.
Dr. Nathan Schlicher at Saint Joseph Hospital in Seattle told local radio station 97.3 KIRO FM that the new limit would likely increase health care costs in the long term because the symptoms listed on the state’s list are indicators of bigger and much worse health problems.
"There's chest pain on this list, there's issues of kidney stones, there's hemorrhage and pregnancy, a threatened miscarriage," Schlicher said.
The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA), and the Washington Chapter of the Academy of Emergency Physicians (WCAEP) have all objected to the policy through statements they have released to the media.