The Daily

An Emergency Room Liability Primer

An emergency medicine physicians group has sued Envision Healthcare, the giant health care services company, alleging that it violated California laws barring corporations from practicing medicine when it took over staffing of the emergency department at Placentia-Linda Hospital in Placentia, California, in August.

Doctors sue Envision Healthcare, say private equity-backed firm shouldn’t run ERs in California

The gist of the story is that two private equity firms control one-third of the emergency room providers in the country. When you combine this consolidated monopoly with the fierce lobbying on behalf of emergency medicine providers, you get a powerful force for raking in cash from our broken health care system with very little risk. Many states have adopted special immunity rules for emergency room medicine in the name of “tort reform”. These laws make it difficult if not impossible to hold emergency room providers responsible in most negligence cases. At the same time, these large monopolies are capable of exploiting private and government payers for their far-flung ER departments.

Here is a Georgia malpractice case discussed in a Harvard blog that typifies the difficulty in holding emergency room medicine providers responsible for medical error in many states. This successful plaintiff is the exception that proves the rule that deaths from medical error in the emergency room have no real legal meaning or value.

Keep in mind the human cost of medical error in the emergency department (and who is forced to bear it) when you consider the profit margins in the ER (if you don’t, rest assured that somebody else is).