Right-wingers love to say things like, “What does it matter if you don’t have health insurance? You can always just go to the hospital!” Some Ohio AM-radio wingnuts just gave us a good example of this foolishness:
TAMNY: … the next time we hear about how there’s 40 million uninsured Americans in terms of health, I want you to remind the person who comes on and says that about the cell phones and HDTVs and cars that the poor people have — I think they can afford insurance, too.
CUNNINGHAM: They could, but they — they elect not to do it.
TAMNY: They know that we’ll pay for them. Yeah, yeah, ’cause they know they can go to the hospital and get free health care regardless, because someone like — like you is going to pay for it, so there you go.
[Shorter AM-Radio Wingnuts: Fat, lazy poor people get free food from the government, with which they eagerly stuff their fat faces, thus saving themselves money, which they then choose to spend on luxury consumer electronics instead of health insurance, because "they know they can go to the hospital and get free health care regardless." (And they accuse Democrats of "class warfare"!)]
Readers, I have pigmentary glaucoma. I use two different prescription eyedrops to keep intraocular pressure under control, so that my optic nerves don’t get damaged from high pressure inside my eyes and I don’t go fucking blind. I go to an ophthalmologist every few months, so that he can check my intraocular pressure, measure blood-flow rates inside my eyes, run tests to make sure I’m not slowly and gradually losing my eyesight, etc. I’m very lucky, because I have a job that gives me health insurance, so I can go to the eye doctor for $15 out of pocket, and I can get the eyedrops I need to keep my eyesight for $10 each.
Now, what if I didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford to go to the eye doctor? What if I couldn’t pay the full retail price for Xalatan and Alphagan P? I’d eventually lose my eyesight, more than likely.
Could I just show up at the emergency room every few months and ask them to run some tests on my eyes? (After all, the hospital’s there to give me “free health care,” right? Anything medical I need, they’ll just give it to me, right?)
Could I just show up at the emergency room every few months and ask them to give me prescription eyedrops? (It’s like CVS or Walgreens, only you don’t need a prescription and you don’t have to pay, right?)
Would they keep a copy of my medical records on file there at the E.R. so that the on-call Emergency Ophthalmologist would have access to them? Or would we just start from scratch every time I showed up for my “free health care” that everybody can get at any hospital?
This “just go to the emergency room” talking-point is beyond stupid. It’s a whole new level of idiocy.
Yes, if you break your leg, you can go to the ER and they’ll fix it for you. If you cut yourself, you can go to the ER and they’ll stitch up your wound for you. If you get shot, you’ll get taken to the ER, where they’ll try to save your life. If you’ve got an emergency, that’s what the “emergency room” is for.
But guess what? You’ll get a bill for whatever care you receive at the hospital. If you don’t pay the bill, you’ll hear about it from a collection agency.
And if you’ve got a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment, how can you go to the emergency room for it? What if you’ve got diabetes? Hypertension? Arthritis? Multiple sclerosis? Lupus? Not a problem, say wingnuts: just go to the hospital and say, “I want my free health care, please.” Just say, “I heard on the radio that you’ll treat me for free.”
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