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1 ER, 2,678 Visits From 9 People In 6 Yrs

From the Austin, Texas American-Statesman:

Austin ER’s got 2,678 visits from 9 people over 6 years

Task force seeking ways to divert non-emergencies away from emergency rooms.

By Mary Ann Roser
Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In the past six years, eight people from Austin and one from Luling racked up 2,678 emergency room visits in Central Texas, costing hospitals, taxpayers and others $3 million, according to a report from a nonprofit made up of hospitals and other providers that care for the uninsured and low-income Central Texans.

One of the nine spent more than a third of last year in the ER: 145 days. That same patient totaled 554 ER visits from 2003 through 2008

The report that mentioned the nine high-frequency patients didn’t include reasons for all of those ER visits and didn’t identify the patients because of privacy laws. But Kitchen, a former state legislator from Austin, gave a sketch: All nine speak English; three are homeless; five are women whose average age is 40, and four are men whose average age is 50. Seven have a mental health diagnosis and eight have a drug abuse diagnosis. Kitchen said she did not know their citizenship status.

Kitchen estimated that each ER visit averaged about $1,000. The cost represents a national average for all ER patients, said Anjum Khurshid, the ICC’s director of clinical research and evaluation and co-author of the report.

The ICC, whose mission is to work with safety-net providers to improve access to and quality of care, has a database of 750,000 uninsured and underinsured Central Texas patients collected from its members. That database is confidential because of patient privacy laws. It found that 900 frequent users — people who visited an ER six or more times in three months — had 2,123 preventable visits in 2007, or 18 percent of 11,600 total visits to Central Texas ERs, which cost more than $2 million. Among those picking up the bill were hospitals and taxpayers, including government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Kitchen said.

She defined a preventable visit as one in which the patient could have been treated earlier in a different setting, such as a clinic, avoiding the trip to the ER…

In a report last year, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services said that 10 patients made up more than 1 percent of the system’s 130,000 contacts with patients in two years. The patients’ most common ailments were stomach or chest pains, injuries or respiratory problems.

Multiply this times the thousands of ERs across the country and you see the size of the problem we would face with government provided ‘universal health care.’

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, April 1st, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

20 Responses to “1 ER, 2,678 Visits From 9 People In 6 Yrs”

  1. Umm actually… what it sounds like to me, is what might be massive fraud on the medicaid system by the hospital.

    Just saying..

  2. GL0120 says:

    We’d never have this kind of problem if /when the government runs health care; these people would simply be refused service.
    They would have used up their allotment of health care visits early and therefore would no longer be entitled to any type of service.
    Maybe TCO would implement some sort of “Cap and Trade” for health care? If you were healthy and didn’t use all of your “Entitlements” you could trade them off to hypochondriacs.

    • Confucius says:

      The federal government already runs healthcare.

      –It runs Medicare whose policies, in turn, influence state-run Medicaid programs and many prominent private insurers, like Blue Cross & Blue Shield. This means the federal government is everywhere.
      –Medicare policies influence everything from what services can (and cannot) be provided to which forms have to be used for documentation. This means the federal government is in everything.
      –The federal government has already legislated laws controlling how medicine is practiced; these laws are backed by threat of federal prosecution. One such law is that anyone and everyone who shows up in an Emergency Room must be evaluated and, if necessary, treated regardless of their ability to pay.

      As for “Cap & Trade,” it’s already here.

      –A health insurance policy establishes a limit on how much money it is willing to spend during the lifetime of that policy or individual. This is often called the “maximum lifetime limit.” It is also the “Cap.”
      –If the policy covers more than just one individual, it is possible that everyone shares in one maximum lifetime limit. This means if you incur some medical bills, you will be reducing what remains available to everyone else. This is the “Trade.”

  3. proreason says:

    I’m too simple-minded to deal with the medical crisis. Problems like this one are REALLY complicated issues.

    My solution would be to put a limit on ER visits, like say 5 per year.

    But, obviously, that just can’t work.

    Instead the solution is to spend $2,678,000 for 9 people for 6 years for ailments that apparently are never cured.

  4. bousquem says:

    I’ve worked in hospital pharmacies and I’ve had to go up to the ER/ED for various reasons and I’ve seen people who really need the services and others who just go there because they want a script for a bottle of tylenol because then medicaid will pay for it and make it free instead of a couple of bucks. One hospital had a seperate area that was open most of the day for those that “didn’t have insurance” or something else along those lines so they could clear them out of the main ER, that hospital still had about a 3 or 4 hour wait time to see a doc because of the crowds. Of course it doesn’t help either when one person gets a sniffle or something minor so they load up all the family/clan/posse and head to the ER to all get checked out for bogus complaints and run havoc all over the ER trashing the place sometimes. I saw one person walk out one time to get McDonalds and come back because it was taking too long and his girlfriend was hungry. Alot of the ones who abuse the system either are medicaid, don’t have insurance and skip out on the bill, or give a fake name and claim to have no insurance and skip out the bill.

  5. Colonel1961 says:

    These people contribute nothing to, yet take everything from, society. And the sad part is, they are clueless. Entitled.

    Mass deportation is the only solution. Identify and deport. Enough is enough. And I don’t care who they are, what their skin color is, what their citizenship is – outta here. Airdrop them to an island somewhere – anywhere. Ta ta.

  6. jobeth says:

    When I was working in a very busy ED/Trauma center (we were the “charity” hospital) we had our regulars (street people AKA homeless) that would predictably show up just about dark on cold nights (Florida).

    They complained of chest pain each time. The hospitals cannot turn them out with that complaint.

    They were admited and hooked up to a scarce telemetry bed and there they would sit or I should say…sleep…all night long because they couldn’t turn them out until they were watched for about 8 hrs for any arrhythmias.

    In the meantime they would get a bag “lunch” of a sandwich and fruit and drink. All on our dime.

    It was a regular thing you could set your clock on. Cold night = Street people with chest pains!

    Pretty expensive flop house!…Oh well the tax payers have plenty of $$

    • jobeth says:

      And we wonder why our health costs are so high! Wait till we get nationalized health care and its “free”. Every time a kid gets a runny nose mommy or daddy will be in to see a doctor.

    • Confucius says:

      Other regular events:

      –On Sunday late morning, families show up for their weekly physicals and medication refills. (Many come still dressed in their church clothes.)
      –On Monday around 5 a.m., people arrive for their I’m-sick-and-need-a-doctor’s-note-to-get-out-of-work exams. (Usually physically-fit young men.)
      –On any given Monday so long as the sun is up, women arrive for the weekly burn-and-itch clinic.
      –On Friday and Saturday after midnight, careless drivers show up for their it’s-not-my-fault-I’m-a-victim-and-need-to-sue exams. Ditto for I-was-sitting-on-my-porch-minding-my-own-business-when-a-car-pulled-up-and-some-(insert “black” if your white and “white” if your black)-dude-shot me. (Always stupid young men.)
      –On cold nights, the homeless arrive soon after sunset.
      –One day after welfare checks are cut, the police drop off the addicts intoxicated. One week later, the police return to drop them off again but this time in withdrawal.

      Isn’t it grand? The E.R. is where humanity goes to wipe its shoes clean.

    • caligirl9 says:

      jobeth, there was one of these at the hospital I used to work at. She was in her early 30s, a drug abuser who drove her family away and liked the attention she got in the hospital. We dealt with her usually once a month, usually on weekends. She hung around long enough for one meal and for people to stop by and ask how she was doing.

      There was one time when she was *not quite right* Acted crazier than a loon, claimed she was hearing voices, etc.

      I persuaded the doctor (who had never seen her) to 5150 her. She was hauled off to the county’s mental facility, 50 miles to the north.

      I learned she was out the next day, and had to ride the bus 50 miles home. She stopped abusing the emergency room.

      I was also unfortunate enough to be the L & D nurse (small hospital, my areas were ER & L&D) for this heroin addict complete with hepatitis and God-knows-what else 5 times in 8 years! Every kid was taken away and put in foster care because of her drug abuse. Prior to her admission for the birth of her third kid, I watched her shoot up in the parking lot before she came in. The doctor gave me an order for an immediate shot of narcan just prior to the baby’s birth, which of course threw the baby into immediate withdrawl. Not the right thing to do … Poor thing came out shaking and squealing. Oh, she was on MediCal and welfare—naturally.

    • jobeth says:

      Caligirl, As an RT I worked all over including the NICU. We also had a druggie “mother” who gave birth to an addicted baby with bones so delicate that they broke if you touched him. This woman would come in and try to pick him up and threatened to sue the Drs because of his broken bones. It was HER fault, plus she insisted she be allowed to take “her” baby home! NOW! She was a loon, and of course the poor little guy was removed from the mother legally.

      And the kicker…as always…WE PAY! To keep mom happy while pregnant so she can spend her welfare on drugs, while she nearly kills her baby, then the mega dollars to keep her little one alive on every machine available. And then back to the streets for mom so she can do it all again! This was her 4th or 5th, all removed from her. And to ever suggest she be sterilized is “against HER human rights.

      First she wasn’t human! Second, she never once considered the rights of her babies.

      Yep, lets expand the welfare rolls to “help” all these “poor”. (extreme sarcasm)

  7. Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

    “When I was working in a very busy ED/Trauma center


    Just dealing with all of those depressed men must have been a nightmare! ; )

    • jobeth says:


      If you only knew! If Caligirl and I got together we could really share a lot of horror “war stories” as far as medical abuse is concerned. I could go on and on…about the million and a half dollar hospital bill for a woman who was too lazy to move…yep, not kidding.
      She wouldn’t even turn her head to see what time it was but insisted she be place so she could watch TV.

      I won’t go on because I’m sure you get the picture!

    • caligirl9 says:

      Seriously, we should write a book. One of the things you see when working in health care is the best (not enough of it) and the worst (an overdose of it, pun intended) in human behavior.

      Heck, we haven’t even brought up the kid with a fever at 10 p.m. and when you ask the parents what they’ve done for it, they look at you like idiots and say “nothing.” So what’s the first thing a nurse does before the doctor gets there (small hospital, doctor on call)? Yep the old tepid bath and a dose of children’s tylenol. By the time the doc gets there, miracle cure! Of course at that point, parents INSIST on antibiotics and maybe even a blood test. So in comes the lab person, also on call!

      I never really knew just how much the hospital billed for my tepid baths LOL No matter, 9 out of 10 were MediCal or flat-out uninsured.

    • jobeth says:

      Caligirl, we haven’t even gotten to the “gun and knife” club crowd who were regulars and proud to show you their “old” gun shot and knifeing scars.

      How many dollars are thrown down the drain for these idiots who after racking up thousands and thousands of $$ for EMT, Trauma, O.R. ICU and regular room costs go right back out there and go looking for someone to shoot or knife in retaliation. Thereby sending either someone else or themselves to come back in the revolving door!

      Of course not one of these fools had a real job…drug money was way too good to waste their time on that…so never paid taxes and never had insurance…Why bother!

      I always get amused when my Brit in-laws keep telling me that they buy insurance when they come here (as they should) because “America won’t treat us if we don’t have the money”. They don’t understand Americans, because THEIR health care is “free”..

      ….and rationed, and with treatment long in coming IF it gets there in time, and NO patient autonomy as to what care they receive. That is all decided by a paper pusher somewhere.

    • Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

      jobeth & cali,

      My older sister has been an RN (in N.J.!!!!) for many years so I’m sure that I’ve heard many comparable “war stories”. It really is sickening.

      P.S. Cali, your avatar looks just like my cat Boo.

  8. eaglewingz08 says:

    When customers steal from stores they get put on a list. The hospital should immediately have a list entry for emergency care abusers, so that when they come it, the staff knows that its hypochondria time. But, imagine this nationwide with US Healthcare that the WH ‘warrantees’. It would bankrupt the system in and of itself because no self respecting democrap would compel hospitals to turn away low income or mentally ill patients because of their abuse of the system.

    • caligirl9 says:

      We did have a list of narcotic shoppers/abusers. Problem is, none of the doctors had the testes to say “no” to anyone. Even when a nurse (like me) would drag him into the medication room and SHOW him the list and that “patient’s” statistics.

      jpbeth, you’ll love this one. We had one patient who, once a week, usually after 5 p.m. but prior to 8 p.m., would come in and her doctor would call in a narcotic order: 125 mgs of Demerol and 75 mgs of Phenergan, IM. Yes, that’s lots of Demerol and we all know Demerol has nasty side-effects. The doctor did say she was in the clinic several times a week for her “migraines” and she got the shots there; we’d get her at the hospital after the clinic closed. She refused Imitrex or any other prophylactic/preventative meds.

      Corrections medicine is much much more interesting LOL And by corrections I mean prison. What a fun job that was (no sarcasm, seriously, what a great job that was until I got hurt …)

      She did have private insurance; her husband was a retired sheriff.

    • jobeth says:


      The hard and fast reality is that if by some chance the patients that turn up at every cold evening complaining of chest pains was turned away because of their past…and just this once WAS suffering from heart problems, the law suit would be more than anyone would want to deal with.

      And believe me, even tho these sluggards don’t have a pot to P*** in they know full well how to reach a trial lawyer. Hospitals just can’t take the chance. They are between a rock and a hard place. Damned if they do damned if they don’t.

      Maybe we should testify in DC! We “got a million of ’em” LOL

      Unfortunately so do a lot of other health care workers nation wide.
      These people are exactly why hospitals charge $5 an asprin pill.

      The govenment (medicaid) sure doesn’t pay the full price for anything (except toilet seats), not to mention what the hospitals must “eat”.

    • jobeth says:


      I forgot to include this.

      “But, imagine this nationwide with US Healthcare that the WH ‘warrantees’. It would bankrupt the system ”

      But this has been tried nationwide. In the UK, Canada to name but two places. And you are right, it has bankrupted their systems

      That is why the British Health Service IS bankrupt. I won’t tell the story again..but we have had family starved to death because they were too old and care is rationed.

      Where as we would have treated the patient and he would have been about to come home,this person was literally starved to death in England. Try to rectify that with common sense and decency!

      NO nationalized health care system has EVER worked. Anywhere.

      Its because we have so many in the “gimme” crowd of libs that are too dumb to see the future, and who could, just by watching the past and present. They want “free” health care that along with all the situations we just mentioned will add the “normal” people into all this mix.

      As I said, you nailed it when you said it would bankrupt this nation.

      I truly believe that is exactly what Obalmy wants. He hates this nation and wants to bring it down as fast as he can. He’s doing a jam up job so far. It has to stop…and very soon.

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