KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Loss Of Manhattan Hospital Crowds Other ERs; Utah Discourages Medicaid Patients From Unnecessary ER Visits

The Wall Street Journal: "Emergency rooms in downtown Manhattan have become more crowded since St. Vincent's Hospital closed in April, but ambulances are getting patients into the remaining ERs faster than they did when the 161-year-old Greenwich Village hospital was open." Bellevue Hospital Center, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York Downtown Hospital and New York University Langone Medical Center are the "four downtown ERs left to pick up the slack" and have experienced increases in patient visits in May compared with 2008 levels. "ERs were unusually crowded in May 2009 because of the swine-flu scare, but visits rose slightly this May at all but Downtown's emergency room. Although St. Vincent's treated 60,000 ER patients a year, city fire officials say the average time to take someone to a lower Manhattan ER is 6.5 minutes, 13 seconds faster than in May 2009" (Sataline, 6/17).

The Salt Lake Tribune: Meanwhile, Utah has a program in place to curb unnecessary ER visits. "Some Utah Medicaid patients who made unnecessary trips to emergency rooms last year got a letter from the state stressing ER costs and urging them to find a primary care doctor. If they visited an ER for routine care again, they received a second letter with a list of nearby urgent care clinics. After a third such visit, Medicaid officials placed patients on restricted access, which required them to see a family doctor to get prescriptions filled." Utah officials called the experiment a success and said it cut non-emergency use of ERs by 55 percent among those enrolled in the study (Stewart, 6/16). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.