U of Chicago ED accused of refusing mauled child on Medicaid

This is the kind of PR the University of Chicago Medical Center hoped to avoid. The mother of a 12-year-old boy whose face was attacked by a pit bull has gone public with accusations that the facility refused to admit her mauled son because they weren't happy with his health coverage.

The boy, Dontae Adams, wasn't uninsured, but he didn't have private health insurance. (Though he was covered by Medicaid, it pays significantly less than commercial health plans.)  His mother, Angela Adams, says after questioning her about coverage, the ER staff discharged Dontae with pain medication and scripts for Tylenol 3 and antibiotics, despite her repeated requests that they admit him. She then took him to another area hospital, which admitted him immediately and performed surgery on his severely damaged upper lip.

The controversy comes at an inopportune time for the hospital, which has just kicked off a new program that routes non-urgent patients coming to the ER to other hospitals and community clinics. Since many of the patients falling into this category are poor or uninsured, the practice has taken some fire from health advocates.

While the hospital insists that it doesn't discriminate against Medicaid patients, it has stated an intention to become more of a specialized center for research and treatment, activities, which might not be feasible with a large base of low-paying Medicaid cases.  However, the hospital is based in a poor neighborhood where it's the only hospital serving such patients--so it's hard to imagine it can make this transformation easily.

To learn more about the U of C's dilemma:
- read this Chicago Tribune piece

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