Thursday, May 7, 2009

Massachusetts - Doctor Wait Times, Costs, ER Visits in Massachusetts Climb

The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang alt a-gley
(go off the planned line)

Robert Burns, 1759-1796

More people are seeking care in Massachusetts hospital emergency rooms, and the cost of caring for ER patients has soared 17% over two years. This is despite efforts to direct patients with nonurgent problems to primary care doctors instead, according to new state data. Visits to Massachusetts emergency rooms grew 7% between 2005 and 2007, to 2,469,295 visits. The estimated cost of treating those patients jumped from $826 million to $973 million.

“ER Visits, Costs in Massachusetts Climb,” Boston Globe, April 24, 2009

Long wait times in Boston may be driven in part by the healthcare reform initiative that was put in place in Massachusetts in 2006. The initiative succeeded in covering many of the state’s uninsured patients. However, it has been reported that many patients in Massachusetts are encountering difficulty in accessing physicians. Long appointmend times in Boston may signal what could happen nationally in the event that access to health care is expanded through healthcare reform. Increased demand resulting from improved access to care for 47 million uninsured people can be expexted to extend doctor appointment wait timen in many markets.

Merritt Hawkins & Associates, “2009 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times,”

Among the political cognoscenti, Massachusetts is considered the Bluest of the Blue States, the Elite of the Elite, the Leaders of the Liberal Health Reform Band. It is the state where President Obama received his law school education, where Senator Edward Kennedy has fought for a single payer system for 40 years, where Obama’s closest health care advisors, Dean David Cutler, PhD, of Harvard and Robert Blumenthal, M.D., of Massachusetts General and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology,reside, and where the nation’s first “universal health plan” was spawned and has been in operation for three years.

Yet, despite this political firepower, something seems to have gone askew. Massachusetts health costs are the highest in the land. Despite the highest concentration of physicians per capita and lowest rate of uninsured among the states (2.6%), people are having a hard time finding doctors, especially primary care practitioners but other specialists as well. Bay State residents are flocking to high-cost emergency rooms for care in unprecedented numbers. And all of this in an affluent states which is supposed to set an example for other states to follow.

The average wait times for appointments in Boston for cardiology are 21 days, dermatology 54 days, obstetrics-gynecology 70 days, orthopedic surgery 40 days, and family practice 63 days.

The average cumulative wait times for the 5 specialties just mentioned are,

Boston, 50 days

Philadelphia, 27 days

Los Angeles, 24 days

Houston, 23 days

Washington, D.C., 23 days

San Diego, 20 days

Minneapolis, 20 days

Dallas, 19 days

New York, 19 days

Denver, 15 days

Miami, 15 days

Portland, 14 days

Seattle, 14 days

Detroit, 12 days

Atlanta, 11 days


In Massachusetts and Boston, expanded access through a near-universal coverage plan has consequences - higher costs, increased ER use, harder times finding doctors, longer waiting times for doctor appointments.


Hoots said...

Thanks for these numbers. They're like a splash of ice water in the face of a drunk.

The MA numbers don't surprise me. My working life was spent managing the "working poor" in the food business and I can assure anyone who wants to know that their concept of health care is light years from the notions of insured people.

Yes, the company had group insurance. My family used it for years. But for people earning only slightly over the minimum wage, many of whom have two jobs and need two or more incomes in every family, insurance premiums (along with routine dental care) are not in the budget. I don't know about other communities, but in Atlanta, Grady Hospital is where they go for serious non-emergency care.

MA is a microcosm of what will happen nationwide when and if universal health care comes about. We can expect a tsunami of demand as long-neglected medical problems present all at once. Aside from the costs, the infrastructure challenge is even more scary. But I think it is a bullet we will have to bite to catch up with other countries.

Speaking of which, one of the criticisms of the Canadian and British systems we often hear is the wait times for certain procedures. That list of wait times you listed for the five specialties is telling. Seems like I never heard those numbers mentioned before. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

Hello, the whole thing is going nicely here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that's in fact good, keep up writing.

my web-site :: diets that work for women

Anonymous said...

This breast enhancement exercise should be repeated a few times a day:.
Depending on the manufacturer, the cost of a set will vary.

Strength and physical fitness can help improve your skills as a field hockey player.

Feel free to surf to my site Workout Routines

Anonymous said...

Hi to all, it's actually a fastidious for me to pay a visit this site, it includes useful Information.

Also visit my page

Anonymous said...

Greetings fгom Carοlina! I'm bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you provide here and can't wаit to take a
looκ when I get home. I'm shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I'm
nοt еven using WIFI, just 3G .
. Anyhοw, very good blog!

Also visit my wеbpage; zaproszenie ślub

Anonymous said...

Hеу just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let yοu know
a few of the imagеs аren't loading properly. I'm not ѕure
why but I thіnk itѕ a linking isѕue.

I've tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

Here is my homepage ... Latest Keygens

Anonymous said...

Stunning quest there. What happened after? Good luck!

Also visit my web blog pvr freeview hd

Anonymous said...

Excellent web site you've got here.. It's difficult to find good quality writing like yours nowadays.
I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

Here is my page

Anonymous said...

Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of.
I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries
that they plainly do not know about. You managed to
hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without
having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back
to get more. Thanks

Also visit my webpage - dotties weight loss zone