Georgia’s Governor, Nathan Deal, has a new money saving plan that he’s pitching to his colleagues in Washington D.C.: stop providing health services to Americans who can’t afford it. Feeling that their presence bogs down hospitals, he wants to free emergency rooms from the obligation of having to take care of poor people.
In 1986, the federal government enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. The legislation ensures that both pregnant women and people in need of immediate medical care aren’t turned away for being unable to pay the skyrocketing hospital bills. Though the Act hardly fixed the myriad of problems with health care in the United States, it has definitely helped Americans living in poverty.
This legislation doesn’t sit well with the conservative governor, however. Deal doesn’t believe that it’s fair for facilities to be obligated to treat poor people, thereby overflowing emergency rooms and turning them into unprofitable businesses. Accordingly, he’s calling on Congress to reverse the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act so that hospitals can stay open and treat people who are financially well-off more efficiently, the poor be damned.
Well, not quite damned. In his speech, Deal said, “I think we should be able in this passage of time to figure out ways to deal with those situations [of treating the poor] but not have the excessive costs associated with unnecessary visits to the emergency room.” In other words, he wants to get rid of the legislation that protects the lower class now and eventually address these problems in other ways. Those who get sick or pregnant in the meantime are out of luck, apparently.
As The Rachel Maddow Show points out, though, the easiest way for hospitals to manage the costs of treating poor people — without having to turn them away — is to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That way, hospitals would be reimbursed for the care they provide and can keep their doors open without financial concerns.
There’s one problem with that, though: Governor Deal is actively blocking the Affordable Care Act in his state and advocating for Obamacare to be repealed. By most accounts, Deal is “doing everything in his power to ensure the law’s failure in Georgia,” leaving 20% of his constituents without any health care. Therefore, it should be no surprise why people are showing up at hospitals unable to pay for their care.
Interestingly, Republicans have often said that the Affordable Care Act is unnecessary because the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act already exists to take care of the uninsured. Governor Deal, however, has made it clear that he doesn’t want either.
Lately, Governor Deal has not shied away from controversy. Just two days after his statements about emergency treatment, he said that he saw no problem with allowing custom Confederate flag license plates in his state because “it is a part of a cultural heritage of our state.” Perhaps that sentiment is to be expected from a politician who seems – at best – indifferent to the idea of poor people remaining sick and untreated.