Emergency Rooms

EMERGENCY ROOMS….A reader emails to draw my attention to this quote from George Bush, highlighted in Dan Froomkin’s column today:

“The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Did somebody actually write that line for him? Was it ad libbed? I mean, WTF? Does Bush really believe that emergency rooms are a great way of providing medical care for poor people?

And as long as we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that emergency rooms have only been required to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay since the 1986 passage of the EMTALA Act. The Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, unsurprisingly, did little to enforce it. Bill Clinton tried to step up enforcement in 1994, but in 2003, after Bush Jr. became president, he approved new rules that loosened EMTALA regulations. And of course Republicans routinely complain about EMTALA to this day, calling it a “hidden tax” on the insured and railing against the fact that it doesn’t allow hospitals to dump illegal immigrants with heart attacks in the gutter. Long story short, the GOP is not exactly a stronghold of support for emergency room care for the poor. Bush might want to keep that in mind.