Republican Governor’s Idea To Lower Medical Costs: Stop Emergency Care

emergency care

A Republican governor decided that the best way to stop hospital closures wasn’t to expand Medicaid, but to restrict emergency care access.

Politicians opposed to President Obama’s landmark healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, have been scrambling to either repeal or replace the democratically passed and judicially upheld law. Unfortunately, one of their latest plans would actually cost millions of people the healthcare plans they now have while raising taxes on 150 million Americans. Georgia governor Nathan Deal, however, has proposed an idea he thinks just might work:  stop handing out emergency care.

A State Falling Apart from Stubbornness

Nathan Deal is the governor of a state that has been hit especially hard in the healthcare arena. In 2013 alone, three rural hospitals had to shut their doors from being unable to pay the bills. In early 2014, another Georgia hospital had to follow suit. These closures are coming from Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state. With the cutting of Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital funding, a program that gave financial support to rural hospitals and was meant to be replaced by Medicaid expansion, these hospitals simply have no financial alternative other than closing up shop.

Nathan Deal has staunchly refused to expand Medicaid; and Georgia’s Republican politicians are trying to make it even more difficult, just in case a Democrat wins the Governor’s Mansion in 2014, by taking the decision away from the Peach State’s main executive officer. Sadly, Deal said he would be okay with this, but it was his suggestion of how hospitals could save money that really gets the blood boiling:

“If they really want to get serious about lowering the cost of healthcare in this country, they would revisit another federal statute (the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) that has been there for a long time. It came as a result of bad facts, and we have a saying that bad facts make bad law.”

In case you’re not sure what this law is, it was the federal law, signed by Ronald Reagan, which mandated that emergency rooms provide emergency medical care for individuals regardless of their ability to pay. That’s right:  Deal’s plan to reduce medical costs is to take care away from more people, and this even goes for those in emergency situations.

Pregnant Women in Labor Turned Away from Hospitals

Just like every other law of the land, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 had some detractors. The majority of lawmakers, however, saw it as necessary to ensure that people didn’t die on the streets. Many politicians during the 1980s cited examples where women who were in labor were refused medical care at emergency rooms simply because they didn’t have healthcare insurance or an ability to pay.

This is likely one of the few times that Reagan actually did something good for America, and as has become the case with every good thing Reagan did or said, Republicans, or at least Governor Deal, are tiptoeing away from the federal law. Deal did, however, state what should be done about pregnant women showing up to the ER:

“I think we should be able in this passage of time to figure out ways to deal with those situations but not have the excessive costs associated with unnecessary visits to the emergency room.”

Of course, he didn’t give a single idea of what these “ways to deal with those situations” were. Go figure.

A State Literally Dying

Georgia has continuously seen some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in all of the country. Its yearly death rate is only surpassed by 11 states in the nation. People are literally having to be flown to hospitals in other states during emergencies because their medical care facilities had to be shut down due to Deal’s refusal to accept Medicaid funding.

Groups such as Living Blue in Georgia, Better Georgia, and Moral Monday GA are all fighting for Medicaid expansion in the state as a way to keep their hospitals’ doors open. Nathan Deal, with his priority being to satisfy a constituency base that supports the Affordable Care Act, but not Obamacare (hint:  they’re the same thing), wants to stop providing emergency medical care if a person cannot afford it. Is it literally going to take dead bodies in the streets before Georgians wise up and stop voting for the GOP?