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Maryland recognizes importance of chronic pain management

Reading your article on health care insurance last month I was struck by how Maryland is attempting to make health care services available to all state residents at an affordable price ("Maryland picks model for essential health insurance benefits," Sept. 27).

I was gratified to see that the state government recognizes what a critical issue pain management has become. As workers in a hospital emergency room in a small town in Maryland we see many individuals who experience chronic pain and come to the ER for treatment. Often, the emergency department has become an extension of the patients' primary care physicians' office or pain management clinics.

Unfortunately many people today come to the ER seeking narcotics to feed an addiction. As a result, many hospitals have policies that prevent workers from distributing narcotics for chronic pain. Patients who are experiencing chronic pain thus do not receive the treatment they require.

Their visits frequently are very short, expensive and unsatisfactory in terms of outcomes. By recognizing the importance of pain management, Maryland has acknowledged that chronic pain needs to be managed in clinics outside of our emergency departments. The net effect should be a reduction in health-care costs state-wide in Maryland.

Elizabeth Getty, Cumberland

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