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Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A decision to cut federal poison center funding is penny wise and pound foolish…

“Penny-wise and Pound Foolish” refers to unwise thrift, “like the man who lost his horse from his penny wisdom in saving the expense of buying new shoes when the old one was loose” or  “locating the gas station with the lowest gas prices, but driving 20 minutes out of the way to save $0.05 per gallon, or “parking and “just running in” without feeding the meter a quarter, but returning to find a parking ticket attached to your windshield.” In looking to reduce expenses, one can focus on the wrong things and doing so, neglect the larger picture and spend more money in the long run.

The House bill HR. 1 inclusion to essentially eliminate federal poison center support is just such an example. 

How is the Illinois Poison Center Funded?

The Illinois Poison Center is a not for-profit program funded through a public-private partnership with almost 25% of its budget coming from federal appropriations, 35% from state funding and ~40% from private support.

Without federal funding, the IPC will be forced to cut services and in doing so may no longer meet national accreditation criteria; it will lose the stamp of quality poison center services.  The financial trap of no longer being a recognized center of quality (much less what it means to those seeking services)  without national accreditation, the IPC will lose its eligibility for state funding.

The collapse of public support will lead to the closure of the Illinois Poison Center as the remaining 40% of private funding from hospitals, foundations and individuals will not be sufficient to maintain operations.

The closure of the only poison center providing service to Illinois is going to affect the health and increase the healthcare costs of all Illinoisans and their families.

  • Increase in ER visits: Lovecchio et al showed in “Poison Control Centers decrease Emergency Healthcare Utilization Costs” that 70% of home callers would seek emergency care if no poison center services were available.  Additionally, they showed the emergency charge would be ~$1,150 per ER visit for a poisoning that could be treated at home.  The IPC treated over 54,000 people in 2010 with simple first aid instructions over the phone without referral to a hospital or doctor’s office.  If 70% of those individuals sought emergency care, over 38,000 additional ER visits would occur and the resulting emergency charges would approach $44 million for 2010 alone.
  • Increasing patient Length of Stay (LOS) in a hospital: Doctors and nurses consulted the Illinois Poison Center over 19,000 times in 2009. A study from Kentucky showed that the LOS decreased 1.2 days when a poison center was consulted vs. when a poison center was not consulted.  A similar study from New Jersey showed a startling 3.0 day difference. According to the IDPH hospital discharge summary, the average hospital charge for a poisoning admission was $3,000 to $4,000 per day.  The IPC was consulted on over 7,600 admitted patients in 2010, if their LOS was extended 1.2 to 3 days, the additional hospital charges would range from $27 million to $91 million per year.
  • Increasing federal costs for treatment of poisoning:  According to the IDPH hospital discharge database, 44% of poison-related admissions in Illinois are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.  44% of the above numbers far exceeds the $1.1 million in funding the IPC receives in federal support of poison center funding.  This is a prime example of penny-wise, pound foolish.

While expense management is necessary in regards to the federal budget, the decision to eliminate support for poison centers is one that will cost everyone, residents of Illinois, private insurers, the state of the Illinois and the federal government far more money than it saves.  Yes, in many ways, when it comes to poisoning, the IPC is the antidote to unnecessary healthcare costs.

Thank you for your continued support!

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Related posts:

  1. You might say the Illinois Poison Center is the antidote to unnecessary health care costs
  2. You’re a mean one…Mr. Yuk!
  3. ::Illinois Poison Center State Funding Update::
  4. ‘Tis the season for shopping…and giving (to the IPC) while you shop!
  5. The State of Poison Centers: Is it the End or the Beginning?

2 Comments on “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish”

  1. 1 tony said at 7:34 pm on March 29th, 2011:

    thanks for this explanation. I’m a big believer in what you guys are doing. There’s no doubt that Poison Centers across the country save a lot of money (as well as lives!).

    Nonetheless, I do think more explanation is needed to address why a national (or regional) poison centers wouldn’t work. I know local relationships are important, but in my opinion, this needs to be explained further.

  2. 2 IPC said at 9:11 am on March 30th, 2011:

    Tony, thanks for your comment and for reading our blog! We’re so very glad that you asked that question because it is certainly one that is at the top of a lot of people’s minds. And we will be addressing this very issue in an upcoming blog (hint: “next week”).


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