Between Bill O'Reilly in this clip, CSPAN callers (who I'm convinced are often paid to call and start spewing talking points), and our elected representatives, we are witnessing the Great Revival of the Emergency Room Lie.
It goes like this: Everyone has access to health care because emergency rooms have to treat people who walk through their doors. You can hear the expanded version in the video above, or tune into CSPAN between House votes on the replay of today's shenanigans to hear your 'everyday caller' talk about it. With citations to the law, even.
Ezra Klein would like us to remember young Diamonte Driver, the uninsured 12-year old who died from an abcessed tooth. He had access to emergency services.
In February 2007, Deamonte Driver died of an infected tooth. But he didn't really die of an infected tooth. He died because he didn't have consistent insurance. If he'd had an Aetna card, a dentist would've removed the tooth earlier, and the bacteria that filled the abscess would never have spread to his brain.
Deamonte Driver was 12. His insurance status wasn't his fault.
Because who thinks an abcessed tooth is something one can get treated in an emergency room, after all? Sure, Deamonte Driver had access to the emergency room. He even went to the emergency room, finally. He was there long enough to die.
Washington Post, 2007:
Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.
A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.
If his mother had been insured.
If his family had not lost its Medicaid.
If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.
If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.
By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.
Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.
That's how that 'everyone gets care in an emergency room' thing works. No preventive. No basic services. You go when it's escalated to an emergency, when it costs a fortune for treatment and the chances of death or permanent disability are even higher.