At the May 5, 2017, event, questioners asked the congressman about the Republicans’ vote the previous day on a major health care overhaul that would roll back many aspects of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including limits on expanding Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor.Labrador isn't the first to say this. For years Republicans have fought against universal health care by saying that since emergency rooms can't turn people away, so no one will ever die because they didn't have health care.
"You are mandating people on Medicaid accept dying," one audience member said.
To which Labrador responded, "No no, you know that line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care."
For example, George Bush said this in 2007 and Mitt Romney said it in 2012.
But Labrador and the Republicans are the ones using the indefensible line.
Let's say you have a brain tumor, AIDS, leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, clogged arteries, diabetes, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, or one of dozens of other diseases. The emergency room won't admit you if you have a lump in your breast, or you have pain urinating, or shortness of breath, or pounding headaches. Those aren't life-threatening circumstances.
They're going to turn you away, even if -- especially if -- they know these symptoms may be indicative of a deadly disease: as soon as they're sure you won't keel over dead in the waiting room, they're going to prescribe you an antibiotic or a pain killer (charging you $500 or $1,000), then tell you to see your regular doctor and send you on your way.
By the time these diseases will kill you and the emergency room has to take you, it will be far too late: your breast cancer will have metastasized into your lymph nodes. The brain tumor will be inoperable. Your arteries will be completely blocked and the heart attack you suffer will be instantly fatal, or worse, turn you into a mindless vegetable. Your diabetes will have blinded you and your leg will have become gangrenous and require amputation.
These diseases are hard enough to treat when people with health care get them. But if you don't catch these problems early on, going to the emergency room will be too late: the hospital will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to save a patient who is just going to die. But if they had been treated properly years before, given the right drugs and advice, the problems would be far cheaper to treat and the people wouldn't die.
Then there's pregnancy: there are a zillion things that go go wrong with a human fetus. Many of these problems can be rectified if they are discovered early enough, but are fatal if ignored until the child is carried to term. Yet self-styled "pro-life" Republicans want to eliminate maternity care from the list of things that health insurance policies must cover.
The thing is, it's not just the people who lack health care that are in danger. If you're infected with hepatitis C, HIV or tuberculosis, you can infect other people. People without health care are likely to be in low-paying jobs -- fast-food workers, maids, child-care workers, teacher's aids, dish washers, cashiers -- where they're in constant contact with the public or their food. Not to mention things like measles epidemics.
It's in everyone's interest to have all people living in this country be well.
Republicans are always so nostalgic for the good old days and hot for the Founding Fathers, they should remember Ben Franklin's admonition: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.