Don't shortchange ER coverage

As Congress struggles with efforts at health care reform focused on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, there is a key required element the needs to be protected for all citizens but especially for the 140 million patients seen annually in emergency departments nationwide ("New House GOP health bill might weaken consumer protections to win votes," April 4). Emergency care must remain an essential covered benefit. Patients need to be assured that timely, high quality emergency care is available in their time of critical need; they should not be waiting on hold to check with their insurance company while clutching their chest in pain!

No one knows when they will get injured in a car crash or suddenly stricken by a deadly disease. Americans overwhelmingly want health insurance companies to cover emergency medical care. Are policymakers listening? In a recent poll, more than nine in 10 registered voters said that health insurance companies should include coverage for emergency medical care. More than eight in 10 Americans said the health insurance company should cover an emergency visit for chest pain, even if the ultimate diagnosis is a panic attack. Yet we are in danger of losing those protections, giving more power to the greed of insurance companies by potentially offering insurance coverage without emergency care as an essential benefit.

Patients can't choose where and when they will need emergency care and shouldn't be punished for having emergencies. We urge all patients to investigate what their health insurance policy covers and make sure that policymakers and insurance companies provide fair and reasonable coverage for emergency care.

Jon Mark Hirshon, Annapolis

The writer is a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians board of directors.

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