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Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

February 28, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Emergency room protest by doctors? Not happening, docs say

Over the weekend, a Twitter conversation made the rounds suggesting that doctors here planned to occupy emergency rooms in protest on April 1, the day the state plans to stop reimbursing hospitals and doctors for Medicaid patients’ non-emergency visits.

Dr. Nathan Schlicher, a Tacoma emergency doctor who is leading the effort by the state’s emergency doctors and the Washington State Medical Association to stop the state from enacting its budget-cutting plan, says no such “#doccupy” protest is planned.

State Medicaid officials have created a list of 500 conditions they say shouldn’t be treated in ERs. Doctors say some of those conditions, for some patients, could be emergencies.

Schlicher says he’s been working with state lawmakers, hoping they will scrap the current plan in favor of an alternative that doctors claim can cut enough of the total $230-million-plus Medicaid ER tab.

Tuesday, the state Senate included a $50 emergency-room screening fee for the 40 percent of Medicaid patients who aren’t in managed-care plans — a fee the state said it wasn’t going to pay. For the docs, who are required by federal law to screen all patients who come into ERs, it’s a big deal to be paid something for the work involved in figuring out if someone’s swollen ankle is broken or just bruised.

Medicaid spokesman Jim Stevenson says he expects the state’s plan will move ahead as scheduled. Patients won’t pay, but doctors and hospitals will work for free if Medicaid patients visit ERs with conditions that, in the end, aren’t considered to be emergencies.

Comments | More in Government | Topics: budget cuts, emergency rooms, Medicaid

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