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cancer, Ethics, health insurance, preventative health

Mitt Romney channels Ebenezer Scrooge on 60 minutes

Last night on 60 minutes Mitt Romney was questioned about health care. When asked if the government had a responsibility to care for the fifty million Americans who don’t have health insurance he replied,

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 — and die. We — pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care.

What Mr. Romney fails to understand is that there is a difference between acute health problems that require an emergency department and, well, the other 99% of medical care. It is true, due to EMTALA if you are uninsured and have a medical condition requiring emergency care that you will not be booted out of the emergency department. Medical professionals don’t look at your insurance card before pulling out the crash cart, so you are likely to get excellent emergency care regardless of your ability to pay.

However, the 70-year-old stroke victim who needs physical therapy can’t get that in the ER.

Neither can the two-year-old who needs feeding therapy.

Or the 42-year-old woman who needs chemo for her breast cancer.

Or the 47-year-old man who needs insulin for his diabetes.

Or the 22-year-old who needs a Pap smear.

Or the 6-year-old who needs an influenza vaccine.

What happens when people rely on the ER for their safety net is that they go without care or get a bill that they can’t ever hope to pay (and still likely didn’t get the care they really needed because an ER can only do so much). Hospitals then have no choice but to either charge health insurances more to recoup their losses or to close their emergency departments.

That is why, Mr. Romney, I have seen and wept over women with breast cancers eroding through their skin. Something that could have been prevented by a mammogram and lumpectomy four years earlier. And I have wept over women with cervical cancers who bled to death for want of a Pap smear and a simple office procedure 5 years earlier.

Mr. Romney, what would you say right now to someone suffering from an illness that is inadequately treated (or perhaps not even treated at all) because the have no health insurance or enough money to pay for care. “Are there no emergency rooms?”

What’s next, “Are there no work houses?”

Beware ignorance, Mr. Romney.


5 thoughts on “Mitt Romney channels Ebenezer Scrooge on 60 minutes

  1. I think Mr Romney is channeling Mack the Knife when he talks about limiting (preventive) healthcare.

    See some of the more sinister translations from the original German to English.

    Posted by G Huba | September 24, 2012, 8:03 am
  2. The irony to me is that other countries discovered it’s cheaper to keep everyone healthy. How can we call our selves advanced and yet not take basic care of all.

    Posted by brianintiburon | September 24, 2012, 8:40 am
  3. This is what I keep trying to tell people. I had Graves disease, and went through a thyroid storm by myself, and risked heart attack and death because the ER isn’t really the place to do extended testing to find a diagnosis, and if you present symptoms atypically, they won’t just order up a TSH. I almost died in my apartment, just not as fast, but every bit as painfully, and terribly. Worst part? I’m a nurse. I knew exactly how bad it was, and could not get anyone to freaking listen to me.

    Posted by ethicalcannibal | September 24, 2012, 9:02 am
  4. I suppose I’ll offer a minority opinion about this. The real question that isn’t being asked is whether or not government and society are synonymous. The original question was:

    “Does government have a responsibility to care for Americans without health insurance?”

    That is a very different question than:

    “Does society have a responsibility to care for Americans without health insurance?”

    These questions need not, and from my perspective do not, have identical answers. This may be what Romney believes, but it’s hard to know given his actions while governor of Massachusetts. Certainly, many libertarian type of thinkers would argue that the responsibilities of society do not necessarily pass to government. I think a lot of the problems we face in things like health care, education, unemployment, and other areas are due to ceding the idea that the state is the embodiment of society.

    Dr. Gunter: It’s interesting that you invoke Dickens with your final comment. I actually went back and read through that section of the novel to try and put the Ghost of Christmas Present’s into the proper context. The reason that the ghost threw Scrooge’s words in his face was to provoke him into self-loathing. Indeed, Scrooge’s entire encounter with the second spirit was intended to elicit such a reaction. From that perspective, I agree with you – society should be taking care of those that cannot take care of themselves. Personally, I find that to be the real tragedy in the entire health care, social security, and entitlement drama – our society chose to entrust the care of many of the elderly, the poor, and the sick to government and now it is reaping the consequences of it.

    Posted by Med School Odyssey | September 24, 2012, 6:19 pm


  1. Pingback: Romney affirms commitment to fetus, but not heart attack victims « Dr. Jen Gunter - October 16, 2012

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