"What percentage of the American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and that child was turned away because the parent didn't have insurance," asked Sotomayor, "... do you think there's a large percentage of the American population that would stand for the death of that child -- (who) had an allergic reaction and a simple shot would have saved the child?"
I have a precise answer for Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The percentage of American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and were turned away because the parent didn't have insurance is exactly zero.
No person, whether American or not, is ever turned away from an emergency room for lack of health insurance. Ever.
This simply does not happen.
1. It's illegal.
Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is a U.S. Act of Congress passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). It requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may only transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment under their own informed consent, after stabilization, or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment.You can thank Republican President Ronald Reagan for that, for better or for worse.
As a health care provider who interacts with emergency room physicians on a daily basis, I can attest to the fact that seriously ill patients are never discharged from an emergency room in the tragic fashion that Sonia Sotomayor imagines. Even uninsured patients with minor, self-limited problems are treated better than that.
2. Morality and the patient-doctor relationship
Although this might come as a shocking revelation to liberal Democrats, most physicians understand the difference between right and wrong. No physician would turn away a child simply because the parent didn't have insurance. This is primarily because physicians, even conservative ones, are as compassionate as liberal Supreme Court justices. (And in securing scarce and enormously expensive resources for their patients in an emergency, physicians have virtually unlimited latitude.)
3. The legal risks of selfish, short-sighted decisions are enormous.
A jury would have no mercy on a physician who withheld treatment inappropriately, causing a child to die. The financial and professional consequences would be devastating.
It's disheartening to note that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as profoundly ignorant as she is, will be making a monumental decision about a 2,700 page health care law. Justice Sotomayor needs to have a talk with her brother.