Atlanta's favorite meteorologist and maven of mass transit during winter weather, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, followed the lead of most other red-state governors---including, of course, Nikki Haley---when he rejected the Medicaid expansion available through the ACA and then refused to make the resources of his government available to assist in educating the public about and enrolling the public in healthcare policies offered through the ACA.
The results were predictable.
The loss of funds---by hospitals, clinics, etc.---due to cuts in provider payments mandated by the ACA in order to help reduce skyrocketing healthcare costs was not matched by an increase of funds from a huge new group of previously uninsured healthcare consumers who were suddenly able to pay because they were newly insured through Medicaid or the ACA. This because, thanks to Governor Traffic-Jam, that "huge new group of previously uninsured healthcare consumers" was not "newly insured through Medicaid or the ACA." Most were as they had been before---uninsured and unable to pay for healthcare.
But, insured or not, people still got sick. And, insured or not, people still needed medical care. And, especially if uninsured, people continued to seek the medical care they needed at the nearest hospital emergency room---whose doctors have become the primary care physicians for millions of people unable to afford even basic healthcare. Hence, with revenues dropping and, thanks to Governor Deal, the number of paying patients not rising, hospitals began to drown in red ink---especially small, rural hospitals that serve a largely uninsured clientele.
As of a month ago, five Georgia hospitals had been shuttered. Not because of the ACA, as Governor Deal would have it. But because Georgia's Republican leadership would not accept, on behalf of their constituents, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
A couple of weeks ago, at a gathering of political scientists sponsored by the University of Georgia, Governor Deal was asked what he planned to do about the worsening of an already-bad healthcare culture in the Peach State.
In response to that query, the good governor unveiled the newest---and certainly the most unique---in a long line of you-don't-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry GOP healthcare options.
The way to lower healthcare costs, according to Governor Deal, and reduce the red ink that forces hospitals to close, is to simply deny medical attention to uninsured/unable-to-pay persons who show up at the doors of emergency rooms.
You read that right!
Governor Deal believes that the best way to lower healthcare costs and reduce the red ink that forces hospitals to close is not to create more insured/able-to-pay persons through the rubric of the ACA, but to simply turn away uninsured/unable-to-pay sick people who seek help at hospital emergency rooms.
Now, giving the devil his due, Governor Deal was honest about the fact that his solution is, at present, illegal.
In 1986, Congress passed into law The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which "requires hospitals to provide emergency health care treatment to anyone who needs it, regardless of citizenship or their ability to pay."
But, despite the fact that this law can arguably be said to have saved hundreds of thousands of lives
in the 28 years since it was passed, the governor believes that we now need to "re-visit" it. By which he means that we now need to "repeal" it.
The economic merits of Governor Deal's plan are beyond question: If hospitals began to deny healthcare to the uninsured/unable-to-pay, they would most definitely save a great deal of money.
But, economic merits aside, his plan has three right hefty problems.
One, are Americans really ready to allow people to die from eminently treatable physical conditions for which they could not receive medical care because they had the gall to be unable to afford health insurance? (In actuality, according to a Harvard study, over 45,000 Americans already die annually because they cannot access credible healthcare. Are we really ready to exponentially increase that number?)
Two, is the Republican spin-machine really good enough to convince Americans that Barack Obama and not the GOP is to blame for a "healthcare plan" that results in what we would see every night on untold hundreds of real-time YouTube videos: American citizens, surrounded by panicking/grieving family members and friends, bleeding out from internal hemorrhaging or dying of heart attacks or lying with broken limbs or concussions or [insert your own scenario of horror here] while lying on the sidewalk outside an Emergency Room door that was closed to them because they couldn't afford treatment?
Three, given that some Republicans now claim the uninsured rate among Americans to be 0% because "everybody has access to an emergency room," would denying ER access/treatment not mean that people were dying because the GOP "took their insurance away?" Just askin'...
One doubts that Governor Traffic Jam's new healthcare plan will get very far, which means that Republicans will have to go back to the drawing board per formulating a credible healthcare plan with which to replace the ACA when they, uh, repeal it. This always makes for great entertainment---watching them try to figure out if they even have a drawing board.