Romney on Health Care

By Jeffrey Page

Listen to the words of a man whose income two years ago was $22 million and then tell me he has a scintilla of understanding of what it’s like to be an American of ordinary means.

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have [health] insurance,” Mitt Romney said on his now-famous interview on “60 Minutes.” “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

In fact, Mitt Romney doesn’t know what people do when they have heart attacks. He doesn’t know if people sit in their apartments and die. He doesn’t know if they call 911 and ask for an ambulance. He doesn’t know which side of town gets the better service.

Romney’s misplaced optimism comes at a time when the nation is losing emergency medical services. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported a study last year showing that “From 1990 to 2009, the number of hospital [emergency departments] in nonrural areas declined by 27 percent, with for-profit ownership, location in a competitive market, safety-net status, and low profit margin associated with increased risk of [emergency department] closure.

I don’t think Mitt Romney could possibly be so rosy about treatment in a hospital’s emergency room if in the last two years he had read a report by the American College of Emergency Physicians, which found the average time patients spend in the emergency room is four hours, seven minutes.

Romney doesn’t know this because he doesn’t know anyone who depends on the emergency room for treatment of a broken arm, a raging fever, a dose of Lyme disease.

Many years ago, I was living in Flushing and awoke one Sunday morning at about 2 o’clock with an excruciating toothache. Take it easy; I’m not about to sit here and suggest that my toothache compares in any way with someone’s having a heart attack. And I’m not going to tell you that a toothache is anything like the pain of labor or the pain of a kidney stone.

But it hurt like hell. My wife drove me to Queens General Hospital, about a 15-minute ride from our apartment. An admitting clerk took my name, asked me what the problem was, and told me to take a seat. I remember asking if I could just have a pill for pain while I waited and of course this was out of the question. So I waited.

People staggered in to that emergency room with all kinds illness and injury. So I waited. I absolutely understood and accepted the fact that my emergency paled when compared with some of the others playing out before me. Still I was annoyed that the process had to take this long.

My annoyance subsided about an hour after I registered with the arrival in the ER of a man whose shirt was drenched with blood. The staff went into high gear and they got this man off his stretcher, onto a gurney and whisked him away, presumably to emergency surgery.

I turned to my wife. At this rate, the ER triage might get me some pain medication in a year or so. It was time to go home.

Now, Mitt Romney is saying not to worry if you don’t have health coverage. Just direct your feet to the nearest emergency room.

But back in 2010, when that four-hour ER stay was reported, Dr. Angela Gardner, the then-president of the American College of Emergency Physicians declared: “Hospital emergency departments continue to close, which reduces access to medical care still further. More patients plus fewer ERs equals longer wait times.

“Near one quarter of hospitals report periods of ambulance diversion because they are over capacity,” Gardner continued. “A longer ride to the hospital is not good medicine.”

Responding to Romney, Dr. Debra Houry, the vice chairwoman for research and associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine, told the Huffington Post: I know that not only is it ridiculous to imply that emergency rooms are a replacement for insured health care, but that our already overburdened system can’t even go on much longer as it is – underfunded, overcrowded and little understood.

Remember how Bill Clinton was ridiculed when he said he feels our pain? This week, in Westerville, Ohio, Romney informed an audience: “I’ve been across this country. My heart aches for the people I’ve seen.”

Does anyone believe him?


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply