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Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
— Posted by denamom, Obama's Quandary...

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More on Michelle Obama's Hospital Work

POSTED: 12:29 PM ET, 09/ 3/2008 by The Editors

The Obama campaign continues to take issue with statements by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, The Post's Joe Stephens reports.

Grassley yesterday wrote to the non-profit University of Chicago Medical Center seeking information about jobs held by Sen. Obama's wife and one of his best friends, and asking about a medical center program designed to steer patients with non-urgent complaints out of its emergency room and into local health clinics. In a statement, Grassley questioned whether the program was aimed at shedding patients who lacked insurance. Grassley's statement followed a Post article that last month reported on the program and Michelle Obama's work at the hospital.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt has now supplied The Post with this statement from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois):

"The fact that Sen. Grassley is questioning the work of the University of Chicago Medical Center -- especially those programs aimed at reducing emergency department overcrowding and promoting preventive health -- is troubling and shows that he simply doesn't understand the problems facing our hospitals today.

"Far too many of the 1.1 million people who live on Chicago's South Side depend on the emergency room for their primary medical care, rather than getting the health care they truly need. Residents of the South Side have rates of diabetes, asthma, hypertension and other debilitating chronic conditions that are as much as five times higher than the rest of Illinois. UCMC is providing more than $64 million a year in charity and unreimbursed care and has received high marks from everyone from community groups to the Illinois Attorney General for their efforts. I am proud to have helped secure federal funds in support of that work."

By The Editors |  September 3, 2008; 12:29 PM ET Post Investigations
Previous: The Daily Read | Next: Gonzales 'Couldn't Remember' Combo for His Safe


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As a healthcare professional with more than 30 yars experience in acute care, long-term care, ambulatory care and hospice care, it is shocking that Sen. Grassley is so unaware of current trends in healthcare that are designed to insure quicker, more appropriate care for people who go to emergency rooms with non-emergement conditions. Community clinics are precisely where such people could be seen on a timely basis and treated accordingly, as opposed to the inevitable situation of being triaged as not requiring priority emergency attention and spending needlessly long waits in an ER for an inappropriate level of care and care response. If this "investigation" is, as I suspect, reflective of a senior Republican Senator's alleged understanding of healthcare, it shows how out of touch the Republican Party is with basic healthcare information and trends, further illustrating how ill-equipped they are to help solve America's healthcare problems.

Posted by: Bill liss-Levinson | September 3, 2008 1:51 PM

Anyone remotely familiar with US healthcare knows about a Federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). EMTALA that prohibits any participating Emergency Department from turning away patients. A participating ED is one that accepts Federal monies like Medicare/Medicaid payments.

So if a person comes in for a refill of blood pressure medicine, an ED cannot legally turf that person to an outpatient clinic.

So, it's kind of refreshing to know that at least 1 politician knows the laws Congress passes.

Posted by: Maggie | September 3, 2008 7:18 PM

Although I am a progressive Democrat, I have admired Senator Grassley for years because he has aggressively pursued healthcare inequities and institutions which have breached the public trust and confidence. Nevertheless, he got it wrong this time.

The University of Chicago Medical Center has been one of the finest academic medical centers in the United States for decades. It serves both an inner-city, largely economically challenged urban community and a more affluent patient population from all over the world, which seeks its excellence in medical research, medical outcomes, and technologies.

No Emergency Room in the nation is equipped and staffed to handle the avalanche of patients seeking medical assistance for both major and minor medical conditions especially since tens of millions are uninsured and those who are insured are paying higher deductibles, increased co-pays, and other inflated out-of-pocket medical costs.

ERs are not appropriate settings for providing primary care and addressing the needs of the worried well or those who somatize illness attributable to stress or anxiety. They are not appropriate because they are too busy addressing major illnesses and traumas presented by other patients and because they cannot offer continuiity of care, which is more efficiently provided by or facilitated through primary care physicians. Senator Grassley should visit the UCMC and see for himself what goes on there on a daily basis.

With all due respect, Senator Grassley's pursuit of healthcare justice and fairness would be more significant if he further explored the egregious business practices of insurance, drug, hospital corporations, and scores of other provider prototypes ... many of which have wracked up hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, penalties and legal fees, which are ultimately paid by taxpayers, private sector employers, and healthcare consumers enrolled in private insurance plans.

Indeed. Senator Grassley would do well to consider that a single-payer universal healthcare system would enable all healthcare providers to create the infrastructures to deliver all levels of care in one delivery environment. Such a care delivery environment would be devoid of the absolute lunacy in administering a muli-payer reimbursement system characterized by exemptions, caveats, and exclusions that requires expensive labor and software expenditures and providers' time taken away from the delivery of healthcare services.

Posted by: Terry B. Brauer | September 3, 2008 9:18 PM

As a former professional health care worker who later became a clinic patient myself, I concur entirely with Mr. Terry B. Brauer's comments. The emergency room is no place to go with a stomach ache unless you are in severe pain.

Routine visits at a clinic prevent clients from developing more serious symptoms, and are far more cost effective.Therefore they should be educated to the clinics' locations so they can be cared for on an ongoing basis.They are also more likely to be seen quickly there.

Somehow I think Senator Charles E. Grassley's letter was totally motivated by politics, not by actual concern for the people in Chicago seeking health care options, or by interest in the budgetary issue.If not, he certainly needs to visit Des Moines sometimes to see how a big city hospital works.

Even as someone who has never been inside the University of Chicago Medical Center I know by its reputation and my own experience in a relatively big city, St. Louis, that patients there would not likely be turned away. The practice of "dumping" patients is more likely in the suburbs. In an inner city hospital of this caliber the associated Medical School would want to see a diversity of patients and is grateful for the experience of working with the neediest ones.

Posted by: Patricia Berg | September 4, 2008 2:11 AM

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