Oh my. How did I miss this gem? In reading through Hank Stern’s fabulous Health Wonk Review, published this week at InsureBlog (which was well done and well worth reading), I came across John Goodman’s thoughts, as well as a few scathing rebuttals. I know that there are people out there who think that our health care system is merrily rolling along, and doesn’t need any fixing at all (although they’re getting harder to come by these days). But what concerns me most about Goodman’s stance is that he’s one of the people who helped come up with Senator McCain’s health care plan! This guy believes that we don’t have uninsured people at all in America, since emergency rooms can’t turn away critically ill patients. Awesome. Everyone can just pile into the already overcrowded ERs, receive care, and then send the bill to the government. Why didn’t we think of this a long time ago? Oh. Maybe because there are a whole lot of health conditions that require treatment, but not in an ER. Just cut off your hand in a tablesaw? The ER is the place for you, and they won’t leave you to bleed to death in the parking lot if you don’t have health insurance. But what about all the physical therapy you’re going to need after they stitch you up? Sorry, but there aren’t any physical therapists in the emergency rooms around here. And what if you need to have chemotherapy every week for the next two months? I don’t think you’ll find an oncology department in the ER either.
Oh, and there’s that little issue of the bill from the ER that we should probably address too. I’m not sure what accounting process Mr. Goodman uses to come up with the idea that the government will be the payer of last resort for the people he’d like to see flocking to emergency rooms. I think it might be a little more complicated than that. There’s no billing department at the government where people without health insurance can send their unpaid ER invoices. Hospitals charge higher rates to paying patients and health insurance carriers in order to offset the expenses associated with treating those who are unable to pay their bills. And in the event that someone does end up with a large medical bill, no health insurance, and no means to pay the bill, bankruptcy – while it will absolve them of their responsibility for the bill – tends to make people’s lives less than pleasant for a good long while.
Health care reform momentum has waned a bit in recent months, but I’m hopeful that our next president will make an effort to reduce the number of people in Colorado and across the nation who are without health insurance. If the next president happens to be John McCain, I hope that when he’s searching for advisers to come up with ideas, he at least picks people who do think that we have some problems in our health care system. And just out of curiosity, I wonder what sort of health insurance John Goodman has? Or when he last had to sit in a waiting room at an emergency department, hoping that his ailment would be treated?