Gov. Rick Perry (R) — whose home state of Texas has the highest uninsurance rate in the nation — told a crowd in Saint Anselm College this afternoon that “everyone in the state of Texas has access to health care, everyone in America has access to health care,” adding, “from the stand point of all people in this country, our government requires that everyone is covered.” Watch it:
Perry is referring to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act or (EMTALA), a law Ronald Reagan signed, which requires hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to treat patients for emergency medical conditions regardless of legal status or ability to pay. But EMTALA only applies to medical emergencies. “So, yes, if you’re actively giving birth, you can expect to receive care at an emergency room,” Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll explain. “If you’re actively having a heart attack, you can also get emergency room care. If you’ve been seriously harmed in a car accident, you can go to the emergency room.”
Patients with chronic conditions that don’t require emergency interference, however — the millions of Americans with diabetes who need “regular access to medication to stay alive,” asthma patients, or women diagnosed with breast cancer — would not be able to find needed treatments under the Act and Perry himself would not have received the care or back surgery he needed under the “requirement.” Fortunately, he has benefited from years of tax payer funded health insurance coverage as governor and seems to believe that other Texans have as well.
President George W. Bush made the same claims in 2007, saying, “People have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room”: