CONWAY, New Hampshire — Finding bipartisan agreement on any policy is a rarity these days, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have supported treating people who show up in the hospital, regardless of their ability to pay. Now, one Tea Party congressman is taking issue with that requirement.
Giving literal meaning to his state’s “Live Free Or Die” motto, Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) was asked at a debate Thursday about a hypothetical 25-year-old who needs treatment in the emergency room but doesn’t have health insurance. Guinta’s said he opposed the requirement that hospitals should have to treat people who come in without insurance. “If you are 25 years old and you are choosing not to purchase insurance with the expectation of trying to get it free from the ER at Memorial,” Guinta said, “that shouldn’t be the case”:
MODERATOR: I’m 25 years old. There’s no mandate for me to purchase insurance. The emergency room at Memorial Hospital by law must treat me when I walk in the door, whether I have any money, whether I have any intent to pay or not, I have to be treated. Isn’t it a good Republican principle to say everybody ought to pay for their own medical insurance if we’re going to require hospitals to treat them? […]
GUINTA: If you guy purchase a good or service, you’re supposed to pay for it. Yes, if you are 25 years old and you are choosing not to purchase insurance with the expectation of trying to get it free from the ER at Memorial, that shouldn’t be the case. But for those people who are in a situation who truly can’t afford health insurance, those are the people that we really want to focus on and figure out how to provide them care.
Watch it (jump at 0:35 due to a brief malfunction with Guinta’s microphone):
The law mandating hospitals that receive Medicare funding to treat emergency room patients dates back to the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
The Affordable Care Act will help reduce the free rider problem Guinta describes by requiring everyone to purchase health insurance and providing subsidies to those who can’t afford it.