At a recent town hall held by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), an elderly gentleman named Jim Parker stood up and told the congressman that he was recently treated for colon cancer. “I did not have insurance,” he said, because “things didn’t quite work out” after he started his own business. Parker informed Kingston that “a friend of mine was in the same position, and we buried him last January.”
Kingston responded by telling the man that “you did do very well” because he was able to get treated when he arrived at the hospital. Parker responded, “I am functionally bankrupt!” Kingston cut him off and reiterated his point:
But you did get coverage. You didn’t get the insurance, but they won’t turn you down at the door. And we do need to focus on people like you. However, here’s the problem: among other things, in countries that have socialized medicine, you have longer waiting lines, you have bureaucracy…it does lead to rationing.
Kingston’s argument is a familiar conservative trope. In July 2007, President Bush claimed that “people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”
Of course, just going “to an emergency room” is what drives up health care costs for all Americans. “Access to emergency room care is not the same as access to comprehensive, coordinated, and timely health care services—the kind of care that coverage facilitates.” And as the town hall attendee noted, without insurance, a hospital visit commonly leaves Americans bankrupt.
Kingston has been telling the media that the August town halls have helped to defeat Obama’s health care plan. And he recently told Politico that the GOP is “going to keep the nightmare going through the fall.” A nightmare all too real for people like Jim Parker.