Doctors and hospitals successfully sued the state Health Care Authority over limits it placed on ER use, so when all three put out a joint news release about ER policies, it’s notable.
The release today reflects that tensions have cooled. It touts a series of alternative changes to emergency-room care negotiated between all the groups and approved by lawmakers last week as part of the state budget.
When I asked House Democrats’ health-care guru, Rep. Eileen Cody, about the proposals near the end of the session, she summed up the budget changes negotiated with the doctors and hospitals: “They’ve agreed if that’s what we do they won’t file any suits against us.”
The budget calls for savings of $31 million in state and federal money, far short of the original plan to curb overuse of emergency rooms. Hospitals around the state would commit to sharing information about frequent ER users.
Here’s how the news release describes the pieces of the plan, which takes effect July 1:
- Distribute information to clients on the appropriate use of Emergency Department services.
- Work together to establish systems for referrals of non-emergencies to primary care providers within a 72-hour window.
- Establish protocol for feedback reports so the state and individual hospitals can track Emergency Department use and services received.
- Implement guidelines developed by Emergency Department doctors around the state to identify narcotic-seeking behaviors and to share decision-making information about narcotics prescribing.
- Continued collaboration between state, doctors and hospitals to troubleshoot issues and concerns that surface after July 1.
- As in all the plans, clients will continue to be advised to call 9-1-1 or go to an Emergency Department if they believe they are experiencing a medical emergency.
Dr. Nathan Schlicher, associate medical director at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma and a spokesman for the state chapter of American College of Emergency Physicians, said in the release the group is “excited to be working with the state and moving in this new and positive direction.”