Mitt Romney Says Emergency Room Is Viable Health Care Option For The Poor

In another startling flip-flop, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested that a viable alternative to universal healthcare coverage was for the poor and uninsured to be treated in emergency rooms, a position he has argued against in several interviews and even in his own book.

Romney told Scott Pelley of CBS’s 60 Minutes:

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

When Romney passed a health care law in Massachusetts, a plan which would be the model for Obamacare, one of the main inefficiencies the law was supposed to end was visits to the emergency room for care. Many times Romney said this model should serve as a model for the nation. Well, at least until he ran for President.

Romney has also, in the past, endorsed the idea of universal coverage but not anymore.

In a March 2010 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe,Romney was asked if he believed in universal coverage and he said:

“Oh, sure. Look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way.”

And in a 2007 interview with Glenn Beck, Romney said the idea of the poor and uninsured going to the emergency room for care was a form of Socialism.

Romney said to Beck:

“When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is. So my plan did something quite different. It said, you know what? If people can afford to buy insurance … or if they can pay their own way, then they either buy that insurance or pay their own way, but they no longer look to government to hand out free care. And that, in my opinion, is ultimate conservativism.”

Romney even stated point blank that ending expensive emergency room visits for the poor was a major goal of his reform in Massachusetts. Romney wrote in his book No Apology:

“After about a year of looking at data — and not making much progress — we had a collective epiphany of sorts, an obvious one, as important observations often are: the people in Massachusetts who didn’t have health insurance were, in fact, already receiving health care. Under federal law, hospitals had to stabilize and treat people who arrived at their emergency rooms with acute conditions. And our state’s hospitals were offering even more assistance than the federal government required. That meant that someone was already paying for the cost of treating people who didn’t have health insurance. If we could get our hands on that money, and therefore redirect it to help the uninsured buy insurance instead and obtain treatment in the way that the vast majority of individuals did — before acute conditions developed — the cost of insuring everyone in the state might not be as expensive as I had feared.”

Romney’s official position as a candidate is that each State should be able to decide which method of health care coverage the want to provide to the poor and uninsured.