Romney and Obama Sing From The Same Hymnal on Emergency Room Care

A sure sign of political silly season: seeing a whole lot of Obama supporters reflexively pushing the same attacks on Romney with the same overheated rhetoric at the same time on points that don’t stand up to even the most modest logical scrutiny. You’d think, given the clear and obvious points of disagreement between these two tickets on some issues, that would be the focus, but no…
Here’s Romney on 60 Minutes the other night:

[W]e do provide care for people who don’t have insurance … if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and – 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.

Romney in 2010:

It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility

NPR characterizes this as “Romney said almost exactly the opposite,” but it’s exactly the same point: Romney’s been arguing for years that his health care mandate plan in Massachusetts was designed in large part to deal with the issue of hospitals getting stuck with the bill for emergency room care that federal law (EMTALA) requires them to provide, but for which they are often unable to collect payment from the uninsured. Romney in 2007, defending his plan on Glenn Beck’s show:

When they show up at the hospital, they get care; they get free care paid for by you and me…If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is.

“Socialism” here is typical of Romney trying too hard to pander to his audience; he’s never been a good political communicator, and if anything he was even worse in 2007, one reason why he lost in the primaries that year. (I’ll set aside the issue, which will be the subject of a much longer post in the works, over how we distinguish socialism from other forms of collectivism). Plainly, though, what he’s describing is a form of redistribution, i.e., some people receiving services and others getting the bill.
NPR argues that Romney is wrong because uninsured people do get stuck with large bills for emergency room services, but this completely misses his point, which is that (1) uninsured people do go to emergency rooms for care because they know it has to be given regardless of insurance or ability to pay and (2) hospitals are frequently unable to collect these bills, and end up passing on the costs to other customers and/or taxpayers.
You may agree or disagree with Romney’s preferred solutions to this – which, in Massachusetts, were essentially identical to Obamacare. You may even think he’s unduly concerned about the wrong problems. But what you can’t do is attack him for saying this stuff without mentioning that Obama has been saying the exact same thing for years, and indeed has made it a central theme of his policy and legal arguments for his own health care policies. Here’s Obama in June 2012:

First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums.

Here’s Obama in July 2012:

And the only people who may have a problem with this law are folks who can afford health care but aren’t buying it, wait until they get sick and then going to the emergency room and expecting everybody else to pick up the tab. That’s not responsibility. That’s not consistent with who we are.

Basically, Obama is calling people who go to the emergency room for care irresponsible and un-American. You have a problem with Romney saying this kind of thing, you also have a problem with Obama. Here’s White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in June 2012:

You have a choice to buy — if you can afford health insurance — and you can, I assume, Jared. So if you don’t buy it, and you can afford it, it is an irresponsible thing to do to ask the rest of America’s taxpayers to pay for your care when you go to the emergency room.

You can find more examples of this with a simple Google search of the White House website.
Now, I wish we had a Republican candidate who was not burdened by the legacy of Romneycare, as its aftermath in Massachusetts illustrates the folly of the Obamacare solution to the EMTALA “free rider” problem; we have to settle for Romney pledging to repeal a law that does things he evidently still believes in. A more robust debate on the issue would benefit everyone. But it’s a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of Obama’s defenders that they can find nothing better to do than beat up on Romney for making the exact same arguments as Obama in defense of the exact same policy solutions to the exact same problems. If it offends you to see this sort of thing said about people who go to emergency rooms to get EMTALA-mandated care they will not end up paying for, I have one simple answer for you: don’t vote for President Obama.

10 thoughts on “Romney and Obama Sing From The Same Hymnal on Emergency Room Care”

  1. It’s going to be silly season until after the election. It ain’t going to get better. No matter what Romney does, the media will report another “gaffe” every few days until November. If he doesn’t make one then they’ll make one up (like that stupid “rolling down the windows” joke that was reported from HuffPo to the Colbert Report as a serious misunderstanding of how planes work).

  2. The airplane windows thing was hilarious, on Twitter the lefties were tripping over themselves to fall for that nonsense without confirming what even Mother Jones and the New York Times pointed out: Romney was making a wisecrack. Reminded me of the plastic turkey hysteria of 2003 or the time they made fun of Palin for saying “party like it’s 1773” because none of them know enough history to realize when the Boston Tea Party was.

  3. Yes, that 1773 one might have been my favorite one ever. I’m not at all a fan of Sarah Palin, but there’s no getting around the fact that she’s the biggest victim of this silliness. Most otherwise-intelligent people that I know honestly believe that she said she could see Russia from her house.

  4. It’s always silly season in the MSM (i.e. the propaganda arm of corporations).
    If it weren’t we’d have had single-payer decades ago.

  5. Berto, big corporations WANT universal health care. The biggest supporters of Obamacare are the insurance companies. PhRMA and the big hospitals also are big supporters. Go read about how the biggest hospitals in Massachusetts have backroom deals with the insurance giants to create a cartel to screw over consumers and drive up prices through Romneycare.
    The free market is not corporatism. Corporatism/socialism/communism are all effectively the same – the guiding principles are identical. If you want universal health care then, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a Corporatist.
    At least now you know why you agree with everything on “corporatist” mainstream media.

  6. Jeff W,.
    You might want to take a reading comprehension class. Or was your response jut a straw man?
    Of course corporations want ObamaCare. My reply was about single-payer healthcare (you know, the kind that cuts the useless corporations out of their position as middle-men who add nothing to the healthcare market, but still take a big chunk of the revenue for themselves).
    And no, I’m not a corporatist and I don’t love me some corporate propaganda. You obviously know as much about me as you do economics. (That would be nothing, for those scoring at home).

  7. Crank,
    I’ll try to make it easy for you. Romney is saying (now) that having the emergency room “option”* is good because it means people can get health care. The President is saying it is not a good option and that a system with a mandate is better.
    * The rich and poor have equal right to sleep under the bridges of Paris.

  8. All you did was call me names, rather than addressing anything I said. I guess that’s typical for you. Please excuse me while I go talk to adults.

  9. Crank,
    I’ll try to make it easy for you. Romney is saying (now) that having the emergency room “option”* is good because it means people can get health care. The President is saying it is not a good option and that a system with a mandate is better.
    * The rich and poor have equal right to sleep under the bridges of Paris.

  10. Jeff W.,
    Again. Read what I wrote, not the strawman you wished I wrote.
    I wrote about single-payer healthcare. You replied with an unrelated statement that corporations WANT ObamaCare.
    About which, I wrote, “Of course corporations want ObamaCare.” How is that not addressing what you said? i agreed with your statement even though it was unrelated to what I wrote..
    Now, how about you addressing what i wrote instead of playing the victim.
    Or you could go “talk to the adults”, who find it cute watching babies try to formulate and articulate thoughts even when they fail to do so successfully.

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