Underinsured for Alcohol Abuse
It is an alarming fact. Up to half of the people who are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States are under the influence of alcohol. Laws in more than half of the states in this country permit insurance companies to deny payment for medical services connected to alcohol or drug use. As a result, some emergency department personnel may sidestep the problem by simply not testing patients’ blood or urine for alcohol.
A study looked at almost 600 emergency department patients who were identified as hazardous or harmful drinkers and participated in a seven-minute interview. During the interview, an emergency department staff member, perhaps a physician or nurse, discussed the link between a patient’s injuries and alcohol, as well as guidelines for low-risk drinking, and encouraged the patient to talk about what was stopping him from drinking less and set a drinking goal. Patients who received this kind of intervention significantly reduced their drinking as well as their episodes of binge drinking and drinking and driving over the next 12 months.
“In the emergency department on weekend, all the cases may be drug or alcohol related, and yet we don’t do screening and intervention,” said Gail D’Onofrio, the study’s lead author and the chair of emergency medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. “Our goal is to normalize this in the emergency department.”