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For months, Mitt Romney’s strategy has been to attack the specifics of President Obama’s policies while offering none of his own. On healthcare reform, Romney continuously says he would repeal ObamaCare while awkwardly trying to Etch A Sketch away from the similar plan he championed as governor of Massachusetts, or “RomneyCare,” on which the president’s Affordable Care Act is based. Facing dropping poll numbers and ongoing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike about the need to offer specifics, Romney finally told us how he would deal with the more than 48 million Americans without health insurance: Get thee to an emergency room!

hospital er

Responding to a question from CBS’s Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes” this weekend about whether the government has any responsibility to provide healthcare for those who don’t have it Romney said, “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 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 other words, forget about having access to affordable preventive care, mammograms, check-ups or blood pressure monitoring to prevent a heart attack, just go to the emergency room when it happens. Romney’s response also falsely assumes that all of the uninsured live in neighborhoods where one can actually get an ambulance in timely manner.

Even when Pelley pointed out that treating people without health insurance in the emergency room is the most expensive (and the least effective) way to deal with the problem, Romney could only offer his usual rhetoric about individual states each having their own solutions: “Some — some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, ‘you’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.’ ”

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Recently the Census Bureau reported that, overall, the number of uninsured people in America decreased by 1.3 million from 2010, the largest reduction in the uninsured population since 1999, due in part to the provision in the ACA that allows children to stay on a parent’s health insurance until age 26 (a provision Romney recently said he wanted to keep but won’t guarantee for every person after repealing ObamaCare). Romney’s plan could literally move America backward to the old status quo of a less healthy America and continue the very dependency on government he rails against when attacking Americans for a victim mentality and expectation of “free stuff.”

Not surprisingly, both as governor of Massachusetts when arguing for RomneyCare and as recently as the 2007, he cited personal responsibility, making the opposite argument, similar to ObamaCare plan that he now opposes. During a GOP presidential primary debate in 2007, Romney said: “Look, the best kind of prevention you can have in healthcare is to have a doctor. And if someone doesn’t have a doctor, doesn’t have a clinic they can go to, doesn’t have health insurance to be able to provide the prescription drugs they need, you can’t be healthy. And you need to have health insurance for all of our citizens.”

Romney’s latest position is not only bad policy, it could endanger Americans’ health. Providing access to an emergency room is not an acceptable substitute for access to a doctor.

karen finney

Karen Finney
The Hill

Published: Tuesday, 25 September 2012