It’s all too common to take personal health for granted. When everything is operating as it should in our bodies, personal health is often a background concern. Yet we cannot underestimate the importance of knowing what to do in a health emergency. Where is the nearest hospital equipped with emergency services? Do emergency vehicles have access to your home (and if not, what can you do to improve it?) What kinds of healthcare services does an emergency room offer and what can families expect when they visit? What kinds of health insurance coverage are accepted? Knowing the answers to these questions will give you and your family the best chances for survival and recovery.
Even in emergency rooms, there are administrative procedures, generally in the form of a check-in. Most emergency rooms are staffed by triage nurses who help prioritize incoming patients and ensure that the most severely ill or injured receive medical attention first. After priority assignment, patients are stabilized, treated, and either released or moved to another area of the hospital for further observation and treatment.
For families without health insurance coverage, emergency room visits can be financially devastating. ER healthcare services are considered urgent, and the specially trained staff is on-call at all times. There are seldom waiting periods for more serious injuries or illnesses. All of these factors combine to make emergency room healthcare services very expensive. Families are often in a vulnerable state at the time of the visit. They do not have the time or the ability to negotiate with healthcare providers regarding costs for services rendered. This is the principle of inelastic demand: families often need the emergency healthcare services simply to survive.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (otherwise known as Obamacare or the ACA) represents a major step towards addressing these severe financial consequences for uninsured families. In order to extend health insurance coverage to tens of millions of citizens, the Affordable Care Act mandates that all employers with more than 50 full-time employees must provide health insurance to their full-time staff. The ACA also establishes the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) to provide small business owners with an online marketplace to compare potential insurance packages servicing their employees. Many of the less expensive plans have high deductibles, though families no longer have to worry about life-saving emergency services that will leave them with crippling medical debt for years to come.
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