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April 06, 2006



Emergency room spending (which includes a lot of non-emergency care, to be sure, but also leaves out a bit of emergency-type care that takes place in other settings) is only about 3% of health spending in this country. In other words, most health care is not of the "must-be-done-right-this-second" variety. Granted, timeliness of care is an issue, but no one gets diagnosed with cancer and then starts chemotherapy the same day. If you get diagnosed with cancer, say, you get referrals for oncologists. You start learning about cancer centers. You look into support groups and how others have responded to treatment regimens. Why is it such an earth-shattering idea that you might take quality and cost information into account during that process? (assuming, of course, that the information is there)

Off the top of my head, I can think of a lot of health care situations/services where shopping around for the best value care would be/could be possible: cosmetic surgery, nursing home/assisted living facilities, medical devices (who wants to sell me the best wheelchair at the lowest cost?), prescription drugs (yes, "shopping for drugs" is possible, and not nearly enough people do it), imaging/body scans, childbirth (some hospitals offer a "package deal" on routine deliveries, and don't forget birthing centers), many types of specialists, pediatricians/family docs ("bring in 2 of your children for check-ups and the third one is free!"), certainly dentistry, physical therapy clinics, etc. etc.

I'm not saying that shopping for care is desirable or appropriate in all circumstances, but surely there's a place for it somewhere.

Stacy Elmer


Can you help direct me to where you found the information regarding the Emergency Room Spending = 3% of overall healthcare spending? I could really use some help locating this info.


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