USA Today's 24-Hour Emergency Room Visit

A team of USA Today reporters spent a full, 24-hour day in the emergency room at University of Virginia Medical Center in late August. "The key elements of today's debate on health care converge in the ER, from the cutting-edge quality of the U.S. system to the millions of uninsured people who show up for care," according to the report. A key reform goal is covering an estimated 46 million uninsured Americans. But the task is expensive, and in many cases, born by ERs under the current system.

Patients, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff agreed that preserving the system's quality and nimble ability to save lives by delivering treatments like stents within minutes of heart attacks must be preserved. "Beyond that, though, the consensus frays." Few members of the ER staff or their patients clearly understood the proposals currently being debated in Congress, and many fear it will cost more and disrupt the current system (Page, Bello, Fritze, Marcus and Szabo 9/8).

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