Adam Serwer points out that during last night’s discussion about paying for uncompensated health care, Christine O’Donnell suggested that hospitals shouldn’t provide care to “illegal immigrants.” Here is the exchange again:
ODONNELL: They could afford to buy a catastrophic only policy from across state lines.
BLITZER: But what if that person doesn’t want to buy it?
ODONNELL: Well, then we have to address that. We have to address that.
BLITZER: Would all of us taxpayers have to pay for that?
ODONNELL: No, anything that they do when they have another bill they can’t pay, make them pay that, hold them accountable for that.
KARIBJANIAN: Before or after they get care?
ODONNELL: Well, that’s up to the hospital. But right now, we’re forcing them to, we’re forcing them that they have to give care to illegal aliens.
Watch it at around 1:19:
As Serwer notes, the requirement for hospitals to provide uncompensated care to anyone who comes through the doors is the result of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. “The idea that hospitals shouldn’t be required to give care to illegal immigrants is unbelievably callous–what you’re basically saying is that, for someone unfortunate enough to be dealing with a life-threatening health-related emergency, illegal immigration is a capital crime that should be punishable by death,” he wites.
I would just add one thing. Throughout the health care reform debate, conservatives tried to downplay the extent of the health care crisis by claiming that everyone has access to care in the nation’s emergency rooms. “Well, no one is going to go without health care, because everyone can just show up at the hospital, but that’s just not the most efficient way to do it,” Sen. Jim DeMInt said in November of 2009. Now, some candidates are apparently even moving further to the right by suggesting that this law should also be repealed.