Yes, they should be free. Not only should emergency rooms be free, but health care in general should absolutely be free to the people. People never know when they are going to need prompt medical care. Some people do not even seek medical care because of the costs. Health care absolutely needs to be more accessible and free so that people can receive the attention they need.
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People should not be required to pay for services that the government says are paid for by taxes. Also they have either no, or little power over certain illnesses and for hospitals to charge them, I consider that imperialistic actions. When a greater power takes advantage of a lesser power.
Emergency rooms, should not be freed, but either covered by the public health system or by private health insurance companies. Precidence should be given t0 the private and second to the public. Excess, should still be payed. In Australia, only some aspects of health care are covered. Breast enhancment is not, but chemotherapy is, everyone can choose to go either private or public, as everyone is provided with a medicare card. Even so people still have to pay for it, their is no such thing as free.
It is obvious that we are living in a world of scarcity, which means that an efficient allocation of our resources to benefit most is very important. If all the emergency rooms are free, the government wll definitely lack fund for other important aspects of society such as education or economy because healthcare costs are really high!
Additionally, if everyone can access to emergency rooms so easily, this will lead to an over-reliance on the them. For example, alcoholic people may abuse the medical care system. In this case, other people have to pay the medical costs for such alcoholics. Also, there will probably be not enough available emergency rooms for those who have really serious wounds or be in critical conditions, especailly after an accident.
The medical assets and supplies used by hospital emergency cost real money so the hospitals (for profit or non-profit) should not be required to eat the costs of that care. But in the United States we should be considering some type of universal health care system so that emergency room are not the primary care providers for the uninsured citizens.
I work in the Emergency Department, and there are many people who use it and abuse the system. The ER should be for EMERGENCIES. Not pain control and earaches. Sorry, but that's what a clinic is for. The ER cannot be bogged down with non-critical patients when my ambulance services have over 7,000 calls a year.
Unfortunately for us, we live in a world of scarcity, which means we can't all have everything that we want all the time. Because of this, it's important to most efficiently allocate the resources that we have to provide the most benefit. While free emergency room care sounds great, it would simply lead to a massive over-use of the system, turning it from an emergency care center into the place you go for free health care. Until we allocate our resources differently and reduce spending in other areas, we just don't have the ability to provide free health care.