a modest proposal
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), in an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd about rising health-care costs, proposed last week that emergency rooms should be able to turn patients away.
In the interview, Black cited her experience working in health care to explain why mandating that emergency room workers see every patient who comes in is ineffective. "I'm an emergency room nurse," she told Todd on Friday. "There are people that came into my emergency room that I, the nurse, was the first one to see them. I could have sent them to a walk-in clinic or their doctor the next day, but because of a law that Congress put into place ... you took away our ability to say, 'No, an emergency room is not the proper place.'"
Black is seemingly referring to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which banned hospitals from transferring uninsured patients from private to public hospitals. "That crowds the emergency room," Black said of the directive. "It drives the cost of emergencies up." When Todd asked Black if she was advocating a repeal of the law, she replied, "I would get rid of a law that says that you are not allowed, as a health-care professional, to make that decision about whether someone can be appropriately treated the next day, or at a walk-in clinic, or at their doctor."
Black's position is largely unpopular, even among conservatives at the Heritage Foundation, who suggest an "outright appeal" of the 1986 law is "unlikely."