Obamacare Gave Us Ebola?

October 3, 2014

EbomaIf the case of Ebola in America turns into a nationwide epidemic, it may be thanks to Obamacare.  NPR this morning:

INSKEEP:  Geoff, I want to ask about one other thing.  Of course there have been many questions about why it was that the man with Ebola at one point checked into a hospital and was sent away again.  Is it better understood how that happened?

BRUMFIEL:  Yeah, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has released more details about how this was overlooked.  What happened was, last week Duncan showed up sick at the ER.  Now, he told the nurse he had come from Africa.  The nurse reported that, but the electronic system was set up so that doctors never saw that.  Duncan went home and came back a few days later in an ambulance.  In between that time, he may have infected other family members; so this little misstep could have had big implications.

INSKEEP:  A problem of communication.  Geoff, thanks very much.

BRUMFIEL:  Thank you.

INSKEEP:  That’s NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel speaking this morning from our member station in Dallas, KERA.

(Emphasis and links added.  NPR doesn’t provide a transcript of this story*; I transcribed this.  This excerpt starts around 3:50 in.  The people speaking are Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep and NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel.)

The federal government keeps pressuring doctors to switch to exclusively electronic medical records.  The 2009 Obama “stimulus” bill spent $20 billion dollars trying to give doctors “incentives” to adopt electronic medical records.  Apparently that wasn’t enough; Obamacare is now trying to force doctors, threatening to cut their Medicare reimbursements if they fail to implement electronic medical records to the government’s satisfaction.  (See, e.g., the Albany Business Review, “Doctors frustrated by electronic medical records as reform deadlines loom”, linking to the New York Times.)

Almost every doctor I’ve talked to hates this.  The electronic systems are a big hassle (some patients now complain that their doctor has to spend the whole visit staring at a computer screen rather than looking at the patient talking to him), and they don’t necessarily improve patient outcomes (in this case, they could even give us an Ebola epidemic).  Doctors’ jobs used to be about the doctor-patient relationship; now it’s more like a relationship with the government and insurance companies.  Many doctors are thinking about quitting the profession entirely.

If Obamacare hadn’t forced doctors to focus on electronic medical records and checking bureaucratic boxes (rather than focus on patient care and doing their jobs), maybe that hospital would have correctly diagnosed Ebola in the first visit, and we wouldn’t be wondering how many more Americans were infected.

* Update (October 6th, 2014): NPR has since added their own transcript.

9 Responses to “Obamacare Gave Us Ebola?”

  1. Reblogged this on The Political Chef™ Blog and commented:
    This whole thing is like being an unwitting extra in a “B” horror/catastrophe flick…AGAIN, let me reiterate people… THIS is what happens when Pinky (or Pinkos which ever ya like best ;)) and the Brain rule the world…intelligentsia is unequipped for real life…they have ZERO common sense (which is a necessity in a crisis).

    • Snoodickle Says:

      One question: why didn’t the doctor just ask the patient for his travel history?

      In other news, Obamacare has covered millions and hasn’t wrecked the economy as many predicted (see September jobs report).

      • Spoken like a true lawyer—tell doctors to stop acting like human beings and start living by legalistic rules and bureaucratic checklists, then blame the doctors anyway when those fail.

        As for Obamacare, the argument for it was that it would make sure everyone was insured; instead, it has left 15% of the population still uninsured, and at what cost? Among other things, it reduced me and others to part-time work; according to the government’s own numbers, the total underemployment rate (including those who can only get part-time work) is now more than 11%. But I’m glad to hear the economy looks OK from where you’re standing.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Would you dispute that a doctor who treated a patient with a fever and failed to ask for travel history would not be doing his job?

        As to Obamacare, it is my understanding that it was never billed as providing universal coverage. That would require a single payer system or some variant. It is true that the law has had adverse consequences for some, but it has benefited millions as well. (I am one who has benefited greatly). Again, no piece of major legislation is perfect, but I am still of the opinion that Obamacare is better than the previous system.

      • “As to Obamacare, it is my understanding that it was never billed as providing universal coverage.”

        Are you kidding? You don’t even have to remember anything about the arguments Obama made in 2008 and 2009; Obamacare makes it against the law not to be insured. Yes, it was intended to make sure everyone was insured.

        But yes, that was also the argument he made. He said, in effect, that it was outrageous that millions of Americans were still uninsured. Six years of his presidency later, millions of Americans are still uninsured.

        In the 2008 primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, “Both Clinton & Obama dabbled in exaggerations on their opponents’ health care plan. Clinton said, ‘His plan would leave 15 million Americans out. I have a universal health care plan that covers everyone.’ Obama responded, ‘I do provide universal health care.'”


        Oops. Far from an “exaggeration”, it turns out that many more than 15 million Americans are left uninsured.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Do you think the gap stems at least in part from a number of states refusing to expand Medicaid (the result of an inforseeable Supreme Court decision)? I do.

        Also, as I understand it, the individual mandate does not apply to everyone…

      • Snoodickle Says:


      • Yes, it was apparently totally unforeseeable to the vaunted lecturer on constitutional law that the Supreme Court could ever put even the most modest limits on his power.

  2. […] the number of uninsured has decreased—or, as a pro-Obamacare commenter put it a few days ago, “Obamacare has covered millions”, and “it is my understanding that it was never billed as providing universal […]

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