McCain Campaign's Plan for Universal Coverage: Change the Definition of 'Uninsured'

Last week, the Dallas Morning News again pointed out how far behind Texas is from the rest of the country when it comes to health care. As I've argued before, this is because of the extensive privatization of health care in Texas which throws people out to fend for themselves in the "free market," resulting in more uninsured than the rest of the nation.

John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, thinks the numbers put out by the Census highlighting Texas' plight are "misleading:"

But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain's health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)
"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American -- even illegal aliens -- as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.
"So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved."

That's right. John Goodman's solution to the health care crisis in America is to change the definition of "uninsured" so that magically, everyone is insured.

Goodman couldn't be more wrong in his analysis. Using the emergency room for health care is just about the worst thing you can do, both from a cost and health perspective. DrSteveB over at the PNHP blog has a great breakdown of the health arguments that's I'll sum up:
  1. There are about 22,000 deaths per year due to lack of health insurance and 11 million Americans with chronic physical illnesses are not getting the medical care they need because they don't have health insurance.
  2. Hospitals are getting killed financially in part because of the dumping of care into emergency rooms. They are closing ERs all over the country because of this. Meanwhile wait times in the ER are up even for the critically ill.

Add to that the fact that using emergency rooms for basic care is three to four times more expensive than going to your doctor.

All this ads up to a health care policy -- championed by John Goodman -- that is intent on privatizing the profits and socializing the risk.

By eliminating employer-based health care, taxing the benefits, and making us all fend for ourselves on the "free market," Goodman's plan (and the health insurance industry's, in case you forgot) allows the health insurance industry to snap up wealth, young, and healthy people as customers -- people who rarely get sick or who can afford to pay the bills -- thus making the insurance industry a ton of money. And the uninsured (who, according to Goodman are actually insured, we just don't know it) can just go to the emergency room, sticking hospitals or the state with the bill.

The insurance industry gets all the profits. And we get all the costs. That is what these kinds of plans are designed to do.

Here's what Richard Kirsch, our National Campaign Director, had to say about John Goodman's plan:
Mr. Goodman's solution for fixing our broken health care system is to rebrand its failings? Wow. That's not only glaring evidence of a man grossly insensitive and misinformed but also frighteningly telling as to what we can expect should someone like Mr. Goodman have a say in developing the future of health care in this country.
What we need the next President and Congress to do is make real health care reform the first order of business in 2009. We not only need to cover the uninsured, but we also need quality, affordable health care we all can count on. We need a public plan so that we are no longer at the mercy of private insurance. And we need government to act as a watchdog -- setting and enforcing rules on the unregulated, bureaucratic insurance industry that continues to insist on putting profits before people's health.

Oh, and here's another reason why nobody should be listening to John Goodman's ideas on health care. In July, at the National Center for Policy Analysis's "Freedom Fest Health Care Debate," Goodman laid down this gem:
Here is the variation in life expectancy among ethnic and racial groups in the United States and as you can see, it's all over the map. [...] but doctors just don't control our over eating, over smoking, and shoot outs in the hood.

Don't believe me? It's on tape! Here's the audio.

There you have it. The racist John Goodman thinks nobody in America is uninsured, and that a perfectly good solution for our health care crisis is for people to simply show up at the emergency room when they get sick enough. Why anybody takes this guy seriously is beyond me.

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