You were already paying for the uninsured

There was just a newsflash on MSNBC that someone was on fire on the National Mall. I just can’t deal with the crazy anyone.

Anyway: everywhere you look, the keyboard commandos are fighting the good fight for freedom to pay more to insurance companies. They can’t seem to get it through their heads we were already paying for the uninsured.

The first thing to understand is that when people don’t have insurance, it hurts other people withinsurance. In fact, the uninsured affect the finances, quality of care, and availability of medical assistance to every person in a community, regardless of their insurance status.

This is the fundamental issue that too many people do not understand. There seems to be this belief among some that those who are uninsured simply go off and die somewhere, thus having no impact on the medical-care-delivery system in the United States. But the opposite is true—the uninsured have some of the most dramatic effects of any group on our nation’s health-care system.

Here’s why: they seek out care, but usually when their once easily treated conditions have blossomed into a serious illness. Because private doctors do not take them, and because free clinics are not readily available, the uninsured seek their care in emergency rooms.

To some Republicans, that’s just fine. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney burbled happily about how the uninsured could simply go to emergency rooms for health care. So did George W. Bush in 2007, when he stated, “People have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

I’m not sure if the folks pushing this line are trying to deceive their listeners or actually don’t understand the impact of what they are suggesting. Here is reality, spelled out simply in a reportissued by the Task Force on Access to Health Care in Texas, which is composed of major health-care providers, businesspeople, medical economists, and other experts—folks who, unlike politicians, actually know what they are talking about when it comes to this topic. It states:

The uninsured are often unable to pay for medical services they receive. These expenses are passed on to others through higher medical fees and insurance premiums.Since many uninsured and underinsured individuals obtain primary care at emergency rooms, they risk overburdening of the local trauma system. This impacts the finances and ability of emergency rooms to handle trauma. The overuse of an emergency department can even lead to increased local taxes.

In other words, when people complain that they don’t want to be subsidizing “freeloaders” through Obamacare, they don’t understand that they are already paying for the care of the uninsured. And these are not small amounts. In fact, since emergency rooms are the most expensive forms of front-line care, the cost is very high, far more than the cost of a visit to a doctor’s office.

I’ve had people tell me I was damned lucky to survive my many trips to the emergency room with pancreatitis. It seems I’m lucky to be alive. And I remember how many times I was told I needed “immediate” surgery, only to be sent home when I told them I didn’t have insurance.

2 Responses to You were already paying for the uninsured

  1. pragmatic realist October 4, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Don’t these people know that the ER is not a free clinic? You get the absolute minimum care to stabilize you condition, and you still GET A BILL.

  2. lless October 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    The ER may be the Republican health care answer of last resort, but if you go back to the original mandate you will surely find that they all voted against it and have tried to kill it many times since. If they block granted hospital appropriations to the States there would be hundreds of deaths a day around the sidewalks outside the emergency rooms in Republican backwaters all over this country. Remember Jan Brewer”s death sentence to transplant patients? And I wonder how many they quietly kill by turning the patients away even now. It looks like they took a shot at sending Susie home to die.

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