Hospitals Find Asthma Hot Spots More Profitable To Neglect Than Fix

Kaiser Health News, December 6, 2017

The perverse incentives of the health care payment system have long made it far more lucrative to treat severe, dangerous asthma attacks than to prevent them.

This article first appeared December 06, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Jay Hancock and Rachel Bluth and Daniel Trielli

BALTIMORE — Keyonta Parnell has had asthma most of his young life, but it wasn’t until his family moved to the 140-year-old house here on Lemmon Street two years ago that he became one of the health care system’s frequent customers.

“I call 911 so much since I’ve been living here, they know my name,” said the 9-year-old’s mother, Darlene Summerville, who calls the emergency medical system her “best friend.”

Summerville and her family live in the worst asthma hot spot in Baltimore: ZIP code 21223, where decrepit houses, rodents and bugs trigger the disease and where few community doctors work to prevent asthma emergencies. One mom there wields a BB gun to keep rats from her asthmatic child.

Residents of this area visit hospitals for asthma flare-ups at more than four times the rate of people from the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, according to data analyzed by Kaiser Health News and the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.

Baltimore paramedic crews make more asthma-related visits per capita in 21223 than anywhere else in the city, according to fire department records. It is the second-most-common ZIP code among patients hospitalized for asthma, which, when addressed properly, should never require emergency visits or hospitalization.

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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