Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Two months after its introduction, HealthCare.org, the website Pennsylvanians are using to enter the health insurance marketplace, is taking more applications every day. It's also seen as a tool through which emergency rooms can lessen the burden of being a "go-to" for the uninsured.
According to Paula Bussard, senior vice president, policy and regulatory services, at The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, instances of that happening are so prevalent that emergency rooms have had to factor it into their game plans.
"They really quickly triage individuals for those needing the emergent care, but then also have the staff resources to take care of those that lack a primary care physician and doctor."
Bussard said that despite early challenges, her group supports the concept of the health insurance marketplace.
"It does improve the ability for individuals to get health insurance," she said. "Individuals lacking health insurance have a lot more problems in accessing health care than those of us who do."
Bussard said that last year, Pennsylvania hospitals provided nearly $1 billion worth of care to individuals without health insurance. She said hospitals make it a priority that emergency room patients see doctors who are appropriate for their level of need, from critical-care doctors on duty for true emergencies to the use of primary-care physicians supported by nurse practitioners and physician assistants for non-emergency situations.