Rush seeks congressional inquiry into University of Chicago Medical Center's alleged "patient dumping" cases
CHICAGO -- U. S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (IL-01) recently asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate whether the University of Chicago Medical Center engages in "patient dumping" practices designed to steer primarily poor and uninsured people to other health care facilities, regardless of medical need.
In a May 25 letter to committee chairman U. S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, the congressman decried patient dumping as a widespread, national problem and cited the pervasive impact of the practice when many Americans suffer economic hardship and lack access to quality health care. The call for an investigation comes less than a week after the hospital moved to close a South Side women's clinic at 47th Street and Woodlawn, in Rush's district, that mostly provided care to thousands of women on public aid.
"As an institution that received federal funds, I am concerned about recent media reports that allege the medical center is turning away and refusing treatment to low-income, uninsured patients," Rush wrote. "Congress has a duty to expend its power to mitigate and prevent this despicable practice from continuing in centers that receive federal funds."
He also said he may move to suspend the hospital's federal funding if the patient dumping allegations are sustained. "Why are taxpayers giving money to an institution which benefits from a tax-exempt status if the institution is allegedly engaging in one of the most reprehensible practices in modern times? According to the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability, the University of Chicago Medical Centers receives $58.6 million in tax benefits but provides only $10 million in charity care. Patient dumping is immoral and unethical; and, it also has a disproportionate impact on people of color, primarily African Americans who live within the vicinity of the hospital but are unable to obtain care there. The only requirement for treatment in our nation's hospitals should be that a person is ill."
In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the medical center did not maintain a central emergency services log and failed to give an elderly man, who later died, a mandated medical screening exam. Some statistics indicate more than 13 percent of people who seek emergency care at the facility are turned away.
Nearly 47 million Americans are without health insurance. Since the beginning of the recession, an estimated four million additional Americans lost their health insurance. On average, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage every day. Medical errors in hospitals cause more than 100,000 deaths each year.
"Health care reform is the single most important domestic issue facing our nation. In 2007, we spent $2.2 trillion on health care, 16 percent of our gross domestic product," Rush said. "Left alone, our broken healthcare system will cost the American people another $2.2 trillion by 2018. We need reform now. Families cannot wait. America cannot wait."
# # #