"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 die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care." -- Mitt Romney on 60 Minutes
There was an old, emphatic question a great high school teacher asked and it will always hold true: "What's the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don't know and I don't care."
The point being that some people will never take time to learn facts before opening their mouths. One of these people is named Mitt Romney. He wants to be president of the United States. He runs on a platform of which he claims he's the clear choice for leader, because he is smart with economics.
If this is true, then why has Mitt Romney come out and declared that emergency rooms can be used as the chucking grounds for the uninsured? By implication, such attitude would lead to developing a medical culture where the emergency room is used by the uninsured as a primary care doctor's office.
Let us establish one thing: if Mitt Romney has his way, his policies will probably overwhelm every E.R. nurse, frazzle the most experienced of emergency physicians, and ultimately bankrupt every emergency room in America.
Any E.R. doctor, nurse, registrar or financial adviser worth her weight will tell you that an E.R. visit is relatively expensive, time-consuming and an involved process when contrasted to maintaining routine checkups and outpatient visits with a primary care doctor.
As acknowledged by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requires every person who presents to an Emergency Room in the United States receive medical evaluation and be stabilized up to a certain standard of health. This means that every person wanting to check-in for a sniffle, cough, diaper rash, STD check or even maybe their cat thought about scratching them has to be triaged and seen by a physician. By the time a person reaches a hospital room for medical evaluation, their total cost of service will likely have exceeded $1,000 USD.
Add to this medications and standard rates for incurred professional care, any E.R. visit can quickly exceed five digits in cost. If people with state or federally issued medical cards are being treated, the American taxpayer will naturally absorb these costs.
At this point, those who have taken a deep, greedy swig of the nonsense Mitt Romney is pouring all over the media this election cycle might have an 'A-ha! Gotcha!' moment. If we get rid of Obamacare, TriCare, Medicare and any other caring for people who don't have private health insurance, everything will be fixed.
Such thoughts are not only wrong, but perhaps show a monumental level of apathy and ignorance.
Do not forget, by necessity, every emergency room must see and treat any person who walks through the door. EMTALA law is the backbone of medical ethics for treatment. This is an expectation to which we have all grown accustomed. It can be called decency and assurance that every American does not have to die if having a heart attack, stroke, traumatic injuries or ongoing illness they cannot shake. EMTALA covers any medical ailment a person may encounter.
If patients do not have any insurance, a hospital will simply bill them directly and usually seek internal or external charity coverage programs. The patient will still be seen and the same costs will be created. Within that process, if a patient still cannot pay their bills and acquires accounts in excess of thousands of dollars, at minimum, and decide they have to visit again, the hospital's emergency room cannot turn them away. The bills will grow, the hospital will not profit and may pass absorbed costs to other patients and insurances who can pay. Will private insurance companies find a way to pass off the increased cost? You betcha,' says Blue Shield CEO Bruce Bodaken.
Essentially, without a health safety net, hospitals will go broke and be forced to layoff employees, provide lesser service or increase basic costs. All three of these things lead to a terrible lowering of standards for America's health care industry.
Mitt Romney should realize that a social safety net is not only ethical, it also allows hospitals to profit and function. Creating a society where people suffer or die from acute illness onset from any condition, all because they were turned away from an emergency room, would have an explosive, devastating effect on America. Americans expect that they can have any medical need treated during an emergency and this fact will not change. It is our medical culture.
If anything, public health care funding must have oversight and education courses in responsibility. Medical culture needs to grow to include education that informs the public on using an emergency room versus primary care services. Public health insurance protects hospitals when properly funded. When responsibly used, it can improve the overall health of America and not be a dreadful thing. People need to be taught the importance of visiting a primary care doctor over an emergency room for certain symptoms. But gutting public health care and telling people to visit the emergency room will make a quagmire of poor services, debilitated hospitals and failed health infrastructure in America. Our health system will fail if Mitt Romney's current attitude becomes reality.
And in that, we come to Mitt Romney's biggest failure as a candidate. There is a rising public sentiment that Mitt Romney views the middle class and impoverished as expendable to his eventual presidential platform. All jokes aside, he's playing the role of partisan panderer to the point that he ignores the success Massachusetts had in health care after effectively implementing Obamacare, on a state level. Ignorance or apathy, that is for us to decide in November. As of now, however, it seems Romney is continuing his trend of playing demagogue for a very conservative and possibly wealthy cohort.