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Dingell Visits Local Emergency Rooms, Calls for Improving US Healthcare System

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) toured emergency departments at Michigan Medicine and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital to hear from doctors and hospital administrators on the challenges facing the US healthcare system’s front lines. Dingell scheduled this tour after meeting with ER physicians on the issues of treating opioid withdrawal in an effort to better understand how to address the Opioid Crisis and other challenges facing emergency departments. In addition, Dingell learned about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and mental health services in ER departments.

Dingell, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with jurisdiction over many healthcare policies, called for improving the US healthcare system to better care for patients struggling with opioid addiction, mental and behavior healthcare, and access to affordable, quality health insurance coverage.

“Emergency rooms are the entry point to the healthcare system for many Americans,” said Dingell after the visit. “Whether you are dealing with a crying child with a broken arm or suffering from a drug overdose, ER doctors, nurses, and staff have to be prepared for every situation that comes their way. The staff and facilities at Michigan Medicine and St. Joe’s are dedicated to serving our community, but there are clear issues that need to be address to help them provide better patient care. A critical issue is the shortage of mental health resources and beds, addressing the Opioid Crisis, and taking steps to ensure that every American can access affordable, quality healthcare and can go to the doctor before their health becomes and emergency crisis.”

Photos from Dingell’s ER tour of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital ER are available here.

“We were pleased to give Congresswoman Dingell an inside look at our emergency department and to share our concerns about the impact of government programs. We appreciate that she has taken time to seek out input from our Michigan Medicine team about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, the need for mental health services, drug shortages and the high cost of drugs along with the opioid crisis,” said David Spahlinger, M.D., president of the University of Michigan Health System, the clinical division of Michigan Medicine, the academic medical center of the University of Michigan. “Our top goal is the safety of our patients, and we are grateful that Congresswoman Dingell recognizes the importance of these healthcare issues.”

"Behavioral health issues and substance abuse remain the two biggest issues facing our emergency departments, with approximately 3,500 of these patients treated in our Ann Arbor hospital alone since January 2018," said Rob Casalou, president and CEO of Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. "In the past year, we have seen a 20 percent increase in volume and growing lengths of stay in our emergency departments due to bed availability throughout the state.  Congresswoman Dingell was very receptive to discussing how we can work with policymakers to help solve challenges such as the difficulty finding adequate services for persons with substance use disorder, exploring options to better coordinate non-emergency care in settings less costly than emergency rooms, and how community health partners can come together to assist with social determinants of health, such as lack of housing and food access."

As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell has advocated for improving the affordability and quality of healthcare and stood up to attacks to weaken or undermine the Affordable Care Act. Dingell is a founding co-chair of the Medicare For All Caucus which brings together like-minded members of Congress with the advocacy community to promote policies that will improve access to affordable, quality healthcare including single-payer healthcare proposals. She is also continuing the Dingell family tradition of fighting for universal healthcare coverage, including cosponsoring Medicare For All legalization in the House. Her father-in-law, John Dingell Sr., drafted the first legislation that ultimately led to the creation of Medicare (known as the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill), and her husband, John Dingell Jr., introduced a single-payer healthcare plan every session he served in Congress.

Earlier this summer, the House passed three bipartisan Dingell bills to combat the Opioid Crisis. The bills will spur research on new non-addictive pain medications, ensure doctors have access to a consenting patient’s prior history of addiction, and allow hospice professionals safely dispose of unused drug to prevent misuse or diversion of unused medications after a hospice patient’s death. All three bills were introduced with Michigan Republicans.


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