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The emergency-room argument just won't die

Associated Press

I keep hoping this argument will go away. It never does.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) doesn't like President Barack Obama's health care reform law. It's too expensive and too intrusive, he says.

And Bryant has another reason to oppose the law, he revealed in an interview with Kaiser Health News: It's not necessary because everyone's doing just fine now: "There is no one who doesn't have health care in America. No one. Now, they may end up going to the emergency room. There are better ways to deal with people that need health care than this massive new program."

I assume regular readers know how misguided this is, but in case anyone's forgotten, let's set the record straight again. It's true that under the preferred Republican system -- the U.S. system before the Affordable Care Act became law -- if you were uninsured and get sick, you could probably find public hospitals that would provide treatment.

It is, however, extremely expensive to treat patients this way. It's far cheaper -- and more medically effective -- to pay for preventative care so that people don't have to wait for a medical emergency to seek treatment.

For that matter, when sick people with no insurance go to the E.R. for care, they often can't pay their bills. Those costs are ultimately spread around to everyone else -- effectively creating the most inefficient system of socialized medicine ever devised.

Indeed, since hospitals can't treat sick patients for free, the bills can still bankrupt those who get sick, and the costs are still passed on to everyone else.

And in the bigger picture, it's even worse than that.

For those with chronic ailments, this position is a pathetic joke -- is anyone going to stop by the emergency room for chemotherapy or diabetes treatments?

The reality is plain for anyone who cares: Americans die because they lack basic coverage. "Obamacare," whether the right likes it or not, will extend coverage, save costs, and save lives.

As for Mississippi, home to one of the highest rates of uninsured Americans in the nation, the Affordable Care Act is poised to do wonders for the state. For partisan and ideological reasons, Bryant may choose not to believe that, but he should chat with his state's insurance commissioner, who happens to be a conservative Republican, sometime.