Update: The Rocky Mountain News published a more polished version of this as a Speakout (web only) on Feb. 27.
First, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we have anything close to a “free market” in health care. A free market would allow the uninsured to die on the hospital doorstep rather than provide them treatment they cannot pay for. Having made a moral decision not to allow people in our great country to die in this fashion, let us discuss how to more efficiently provide for sensible universal health care.
Well, at least Polis recognizes that we do not have a free market in health care. Why he chooses to use scare quotes is beyond me, and makes me wonder what he really means. The government interference in the free market he’s addressing is EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. As its Wikipedia entry (linked above) summarizes, this law forbids hospital emergency departments from denying care to anyone with an emergency medical condition.
Apparently, Jared Polis thinks that without such a law, this would happen routinely, and the uninsured would “die on the hospital doorstep.” Since EMTALA was passed in 1986, I welcome Jared to present the evidence that this legislation has decreased the number of such undesirable occurrences.
In any case, it is not hard to imagine that our community would provide such care even if a politician’s law didn’t compel us to do so. It’s not hard to imagine, because people do it. Consider the Shriners Hospitals for Children. According to Charity Navigator, their total revenue exceeed $640 million in 2005. In Colorado, private philanthropy accounted for almost $200 million in medical care for the uninsured. (See slide 20 here.)
The above examples do not address emergency situations, but it’s difficult to imagine that people in our society would voluntarily donate money to provide medical care for the uninsured in non-emergency situations, but not in emergency situations. Jared Polis, can you shed some light on this?
According to Jared Polis, a law is required compel doctors to treat the uninsured in emergency situations. Is Polis saying that doctors are so heartless and cruel that they would not treat someone for free? Is he saying that the electorate as too callous to fund charities to pay such that doctors could treat the uninsured in emergency situations?
Apparently, the answer is “yes.” Polis writes that we have “made a moral decision not to allow people in our great country to die in this fashion.” Not quite. Moral decisions are a matter of choice, not a threat. EMTALA threatens doctors with penalties up to $50,000 for not complying.
So Jared Polis thinks that the citizens of Colorado and Colorado’s physicians must be forced to do the right thing, since they lack the moral fiber to do it themselves. And yet, Jared Polis seeks public office, to represent us, the very people he doesn’t trust to do the right thing. So if the (apparently immoral) citizens of Colorado’s 2nd District elect Mr. Polis, how can we trust him to do the right thing?