The GOP likes to say that
In this country, the uninsured are covered by emergency room services.
This is only slightly truthful, and more false than it is true, with the actual truth being, of course, far more complicated.
The uninsured are ONLY covered by ER care in so far as STABILIZATION. They do NOT receive one tiny bit more care than is necessary to STABLIZE the condition for which they sought care via the emergency room. The underlying condition is not treated.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLES:
1. Bob goes to the ER because he is having difficulty breathing. He also has lung cancer which is the underlying issue re his breathing difficulty. Bob is given a breathing treatment, and referred to an oncology specialist.
The oncology specialist will not see him because Bob has no insurance. Bob is relegated to dying of treatable lung cancer without even the ability to obtain the drugs needed to control his pain as he dies.
Bob is also billed an outrageous amount for this minimal care. It is certainly not given freely, and the hospital will SUE Bob or his family if it is not paid.
THIS is what happens to the uninsured.
In the emergency room, the uninsured are ONLY TREATED FOR STABILIZATION, NOT FOR THE UNDERLYING CONDITION.
2. Mary has an asthma attack, goes to the ER where she is stabilized, and sent home within a couple of hours with 3 prescriptions.
Without prescription coverage, the cost of these 3 common prescriptions is $442 for a one-month supply, and Mary has to make the decision between the drugs and food because she is on a fixed income. .
Mary is subsequently billed by the hospital for $1800, which she also can not afford.
3. Tom-- a twenty year old college student who was covered under his step-father's insurance plan until his step-dad divorced Tom's mom. He now has no insurance, and can not currently work because of what turns out to be a herniated disc in his spine.
He lives with constant pain, and does not go to the doctor because of an inability to pay.
One evening, unable to tolerate the worsening pain, he begs his mother to take him to the hospital.
He is examined, and told he must see a specialist, and undergo an MRI. He receives a couple of Vicodin for pain, and a prescription for an anti-inflammatory, as well as Vicodin. .
His mom fills the prescriptions for him, but they can not find a specialist who will work with him because he has no insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, the hospital bills him for the visit at the rate of $4000. He can't pay it, it is sent to a collection agency and his credit is ruined at the age of 20.
THIS is the reality of the uninsured.