It is greatly ironic that one of the Republicans on the Board of Supervisors, Matt Rexroad seems to get the fact that while it would seem the fiscally prudent thing to do, cutting off health services to indigent patients probably costs more in the long run.
“I understand how and why the county needs to eliminate these services for all kinds of reasons. However, I still believe that this will end up costing taxpayers/health care premium payers/and emergency room users more than the county is currently paying.
This is what I think will happen. Instead of people going to the county on a Tuesday with a cut on the arm that needs some simple first aid that even some lame first aid provider like me could do the same person will show up on Saturday in the emergency room with a raging infection that will require the emergency room staff to apply observation and treatment that will cost 75 times what the visit on Tuesday would cost.
No problem you might say. The taxpayers don’t have to pay for it — all is good. Not really.
Federal law requires emergency rooms in hospitals to treat anyone that walks in the door with a real emergency. These people will get treated to the point they can leave. This person can’t pay the county on Tuesday for the first aid. Do you think they are going to pay the hospital for the treatment, x-ray, and antibiotics they get on Saturday? Not a chance. Instead of paying $100 for visit on Tuesday the hospital bill on Saturday that will be left unpaid will be many times higher.
What will happen is that the hospital will raise their rates a little higher so that my health insurance premiums go up a little more. Further, when Jenn cuts her hand or Adam has an intensely high fever so I take them to the emergency room at Woodland Memorial I will be waiting for an extra two hours to be seen because ten people in front of me that should have been treated on Tuesday are not in front of me in line on Saturday.
Some of you are going to be cheering the new policy of not providing services to illegal immigrants. I get that. I understand it. I just don’t agree with all of it.
What I think is not being understood by all of you that have been e-mailing me encouraging this outcome is that we are all still going to pay for this treatment at a more critical stage. The current legal system mandates that care when it is most expensive.
It is my belief that we will actually pay more in the long run for the care of these people than the county pays right now. This decision is not the end result that many of you desire.”
Mr. Rexroad is correct. There are other reasons to consider this policy other than it’s simply the right thing to do.
First, we live around people regardless of whether or not we provide them health care. The more we allow disease to fester because we fail to allow for things such as health care and possibly even vaccination, the more we put ourselves at risk.
Thankfully, the H1N1 was not as serious as feared but I still think it illustrates the point. The lack of diagnosis and treatment will lead to unreported cases. Thus people who are sick will be more likely to transmit it across the population and less likely to be quarantined. Disease is not likely to distinguish between those here legally and those not.
The county has to cut services, that part is unavoidable. What they ultimately decide to cut is going to hurt someone who needs their services. I get all of this. Our job however is to determine which cuts will hurt us least and while this seems to make the most sense, I think everyone needs to stop and think. If the Republican gets it, shouldn’t we all?
—David M. Greenwald reporting