Strange as it sounds, it seems that there’s a difference in outcome for visitors to the emergency room based on whether a person has insurance or not. A study by Harvard University showed that uninsured patients with traumatic injuries, such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital.

That stuns me, and it seems the results have shocked many other people as well. It was always assumed that everyone who goes to the emergency room would get the same care because of a law known as EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), which prevents patients from being sent away from emergency rooms just because they might not have the ability to pay for their services.

The study wasn’t able to figure out why this was happening, but there are some speculations. One of those is private hospitals transferring patients as soon as they can, since they’re for-profit hospitals. Another is that the study included many urban hospitals, which usually have a higher incidence of self pay patients with serious issues and not as many resources to take care of patients coming into the emergency room in serious condition. No one is saying that the physicians in the emergency rooms aren’t treating all patients the same, aren’t giving proper health care to everyone, which would be illegal. But it’s possible that patient without a way to pay their hospital bills aren’t as accepted for expensive procedures as someone who has an insurance approval that will pay for it.

No matter what the reason, this is somewhat disturbing, and it means more studies will have to be performed, and some hospitals are going to need to look into their procedures to make sure that they’re not treating patients who have the ability to pay better than those who don’t have the ability to pay. Unfortunately for the uninsured, the law does say that if a diagnosis or problem isn’t considered as life threatening, hospitals can refuse to provide the treatment if they don’t believe they’ll get paid for it.

It’s no wonder so many people are clamoring for a health care bill.