The nation’s failure to provide health insurance for all Americans seems to be harming even many of those who do have good health coverage. That is one very plausible interpretation of a disturbing increase in waiting times at emergency rooms that are often clogged with uninsured patients seeking routine charity care.
An analysis by researchers at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, found that the median waiting time to see a physician in hospital emergency departments jumped from 22 minutes in 1997 to 30 minutes in 2004.
For the sickest heart attack patients, according to results published in the journal Health Affairs, wait times more than doubled. In 1997, half of them got to see a doctor within eight minutes; in 2004 it took 20 minutes. For a quarter of the heart attack patients, the wait reached 50 minutes or more — a particularly disturbing lag when every minute of delay increases the likelihood of death.
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