The incentives of the healthcare payment system have long made it far more lucrative to treat severe, dangerous asthma attacks than to prevent them.
Baltimore paramedic crews make more asthma-related visits per capita in Zip code 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.
For each emergency room visit to treat Baltimore residents for asthma, according to the data, hospitals were paid $871, on average. For each inpatient case, the average revenue was $8,698. In one recent three-year period, hospitals collected $6.1 million for treating just 50 inpatients, the ones most frequently ill with asthma, each of whom visited the hospital at least 10 times.