Last night on 60 minutes Mitt Romney was questioned about health care. When asked if the government had a responsibility to care for the fifty million Americans who don’t have health insurance he replied,
“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we– if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and — and die. We — pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care.“
What Mr. Romney fails to understand is that there is a difference between acute health problems that require an emergency department and, well, the other 99% of medical care. It is true, due to EMTALA if you are uninsured and have a medical condition requiring emergency care that you will not be booted out of the emergency department. Medical professionals don’t look at your insurance card before pulling out the crash cart, so you are likely to get excellent emergency care regardless of your ability to pay.
However, the 70-year-old stroke victim who needs physical therapy can’t get that in the ER.
Neither can the two-year-old who needs feeding therapy.
Or the 42-year-old woman who needs chemo for her breast cancer.
Or the 47-year-old man who needs insulin for his diabetes.
Or the 22-year-old who needs a Pap smear.
Or the 6-year-old who needs an influenza vaccine.
What happens when people rely on the ER for their safety net is that they go without care or get a bill that they can’t ever hope to pay (and still likely didn’t get the care they really needed because an ER can only do so much). Hospitals then have no choice but to either charge health insurances more to recoup their losses or to close their emergency departments.
That is why, Mr. Romney, I have seen and wept over women with breast cancers eroding through their skin. Something that could have been prevented by a mammogram and lumpectomy four years earlier. And I have wept over women with cervical cancers who bled to death for want of a Pap smear and a simple office procedure 5 years earlier.
Mr. Romney, what would you say right now to someone suffering from an illness that is inadequately treated (or perhaps not even treated at all) because the have no health insurance or enough money to pay for care. “Are there no emergency rooms?”
What’s next, “Are there no work houses?”
Beware ignorance, Mr. Romney.