Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More on Health Care


The president’s speech in Cleveland yesterday wasn’t just a bizarre defense for the status quo in Iraq; it managed to also include some bizarre ideas about healthcare. This gem, for example, won the coveted Clueless Quote of the Day from Dan Froomkin.

“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. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Kevin asks, “Did somebody actually write that line for him? Was it adlibbed?” In fact, it was the latter; Bush’s event was kind of a town-hall style speech. He didn’t have a podium or a teleprompter, so this was the president without a net. His comments on healthcare reflected whatever thought popped into his head.

Kevin added, “Does Bush really believe that emergency rooms are a great way of providing medical care for poor people?”

Actually, I think he might.

It didn’t get too much attention at the time, but three years ago, then-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (you know, the supposed presidential candidate?) visited Iraq to drop off $1 billion to help establish a universal healthcare system for Iraqis. Pesky congressional Dems asked why the administration opposes universal care in the U.S., while supporting a system in Iraq.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said yesterday there are major differences between the two countries that defy simple comparisons.

“Even if you don’t have health insurance,” said Thompson, who toured medical facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Tikrit on Saturday and Sunday, “you are still taken care of in America. That certainly could be defined as universal coverage.”

He didn’t specifically mention emergency rooms, but the implication was pretty obvious, just as the president’s comments were yesterday: in the United States, sick people receive care whether they have insurance or not, which necessarily makes our system “universal.”

In a sense, that’s true. If you’re sick, there are public hospitals that will treat you in an emergency room. Of course, it’s extremely expensive to treat ill patients in this way and it would be far cheaper to pay for preventative care so that people don’t have to wait for a medical emergency to go to the hospital.

Under the Bush administration model, a sick person with no insurance goes to the emergency room for treatment. Does he get a bill once he’s taken care of? Probably, but it doesn’t matter because he can’t afford to pay it.

If the patient can’t pay the bill and hospital can’t treat sick patients for free, who pays the medical bill? Everyone else.

Yes, everyone pays, everyone gets treatment. Bush and his team support the most inefficient system of socialized medicine ever devised.

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