Budget Cutting That’s Beyond Imprudent and Well Into Stupid
The House GOP wants to virtually eliminate Federal funding for poison control centers.
The nation’s network of 57 poison control centers takes four million calls a year about people who may have been exposed to a toxic substance. In three-quarters of all cases, the centers are able to provide treatment advice that does not require a visit to a hospital or a doctor, saving tens of millions of dollars in medical costs.
While a single visit to an emergency room can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars (often paid for by the government), a call to a poison center costs the government only $30 or $40. A study in the Journal of Medical Toxicology estimated that the poison centers saved the State of Arizona alone $33 million a year. Louisiana eliminated its centers in the 1980s but restored them when it realized how much money they saved.
The centers, which collect poison reports, can also act as an early warning system for pandemics or large toxic exposures, allowing a quick response.
The federal government pays about 20 percent of the cost of the centers, with states, cities and philanthropy picking up the rest. Many strapped state and local governments have cut back their financing, and experts say that the virtual elimination of federal money would force many centers to close and sharply damage the effectiveness of the national network.
Scott Lemieux comments that “if Aaron Sorkin had made this a plot line in a West Wing script, I would have written a post making fun of him for his didacticism.”
I don’t disagree.