Some emergency departments do not test patients’ blood or urine for alcohol because of issues with insurance payments, Kaiser Health News reports. In more than half of states, insurers are allowed to deny payment for medical services related to alcohol or drug use.
Up to 50 percent of people who are treated in hospital emergency departments and trauma centers are under the influence of alcohol, the article notes.
A recent study found people who engage in hazardous and harmful drinking are more likely to reduce their consumption of alcohol for at least one year if they receive just seven minutes of counseling from an emergency room physician. Physician counseling can also reduce drinking and driving.
Screening for alcohol or drug use is not required in emergency departments, according to Kaiser. Level 1 and 2 trauma centers, which can handle patients who have sustained injuries in major accidents, are required to do so. Level 1 trauma centers also must provide counseling.
Many states have laws that allow health insurers to refuse to pay for care, if the patient’s injuries occurred while he or she was under the influence of alcohol; some laws also include drug use. In 2001, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommended against these laws. At least 15 states have since repealed or amended their laws in order to ban this practice.
Self-insured companies that pay their employees’ health care costs directly are allowed to refuse to cover claims related to alcohol.
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