Emergency Medicine

So Mitt Romney now believes that everyone should use the emergency room for their health care needs if they don’t have insurance. Or, at least, it sounded that way. (Bold Progressives caught him saying something quite different back in 2007, before health care became a dirty word to conservatives.)

Remember when Alan Grayson was vilified for saying that the Republican plan was “Don’t get sick and if you do get sick, die quickly”? Well, that sounds an awful lot like Mitt’s new program to me.

Allow me to share a personal story that shed some light on emergency care — for the insured. We have a high deductible plan, because it’s all we can afford. And since we’re decrepit baby boomers, it’s ridiculously expensive even so. It’s our second highest monthly bill after housing. Luckily, we’re both in surprisingly good health and we’re just hoping against hope that it stays that way until we can reach Medicare age.

However, my husband was traveling recently and had to go to the emergency room with a kidney stone. The “out of network” hospital billed us nearly $5,000. Since we have insurance, they were kind enough to bill them directly instead of requiring the payment up front, but since our deductible is so high, we will end up paying the whole bill anyway.

Here’s the rub. We would have been better off saying we were uninsured and negotiating with the hospital directly for a lower rate. Our insurance company has no interest in negotiating a lower rate because we have a high deductible. So, they just paid the bill and are now passing the whole ridiculously high charges on to us. It’s almost at the end of our policy year and unless we both have heart attacks in the next month, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to “take advantage” of the fact that our deductible is met. So we’re stuck.

Insurance companies only help themselves. They do nothing that doesn’t benefit their bottom line unless they are required to do so. And even under Obama care, (which will be an improvement for us in the preventive care realm) we’ll be paying about the same, with the same deductible and the same profit motive for the insurance company. In fact, I’m guessing they’ll be even greedier wherever they can get away with it. Greed is like water — it always finds a way.

Medicare for all would solve this problem since it would cover you no matter where you get sick. But we don’t have that. And if the political establishment in both parties has their way, we won’t have Medicare much longer either at least in any recognizable form. Sure, their fabulous, Rube Goldberg “market solution” will probably be fixed up in the long run, piece by agonizing piece. Unfortunately, in the long run, a whole lot of American guinea pigs will be dead before their time while they work out the kinks.

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