25 February 2010

A surprising argument on EMTALA

This is not what I expected to see in my inbox today: 

Minnesota Governor and Presidential aspirant Tim Pawlenty:  Let's repeal EMTALA.

No, seriously.

Via The Hill:
Pawlenty: Let ER's turn away patients to cut costs

Emergency rooms should be able to turn patients away to cut costs, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) said last night

Appearing on Fox News's "On the Record with Greta Van Sustren" last night, Pawlenty said the federal law that mandates ER treatment should be repealed.

"Well, for one thing you could do is change the federal law so that not every ER is required to treat everybody who comes in the door, even if they have a minor condition," Pawlenty said. "They should be -- if you have a minor condition, instead of being at the really expensive ER, you should be at the primary care clinic."

Supporters of the federal law would content that many people go to ERs precisely because they do not have the insurance to pay for a primary care physician.

Van Susteren was also skeptical about Pawlenty's proposal, pointing out that it's difficult to tell what's a minor condition without treating it.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. OK. But you come in with chest pains, and like, you get horrible chest pains. Now, it could be indigestion, which is minor, or it could be heart, which isn't minor. So then...

PAWLENTY: You have to do a little triage. That's for sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right. I mean, so the problem is, it's got -- I mean, there really is sort of -- it's not that easy.
When you are in a conversation with Greta Van Susteren and she seems like the sane and reasonable one, you know you are in trouble.

I suppose what this really reveals is that Pawlenty is an idiot when it comes to health care policy, but then I hear his antics in Minnesota with MinnesotaCare would support the notion that he's either an idiot or callously indifferent on the issue, anyway.

Nothing new to see here.  Move on, people.


  1. Wow. This was not in my inbox today but should have been. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. But is sounds like such a good idea. Come in with a sniffle, get turned around at the door. Come in with vomit x 1, three hours ago, get turned around at the door. Stubbed toe, good bye.

    Possible lung infection, have a seat. Repeated barfing, have a basin and a seat. Possible foot fracture, make yourself comfortable.

  3. How soon people forget why EMTALA was enacted in the first place.

    Pawlenty's done a good job so far presenting himself as the non-wingnut Republican presidential hopeful. I guess he couldn't maintain the facade indefinitely.

  4. "...and she seems like the sane and reasonable one, you know you are in trouble."

    LOL! great depiction.

  5. Is this like... death panels?

  6. Pawlenty's proposal sounds like a recipe for lawsuits. I can picture it now- somebody comes in with mild chest pain, gets turned away, then ends up back there with a heart attack a couple hours later and sues the hospital for malpractice.

    If this is how Mr. "Sam's Club Republican" is acting, the Republican Presidential Primary race is going to be very ugly.

  7. hmm... i hate emtala as much as the next er doc but if you repeal it you will get at best the nonurgent uninsured/underinsured being turned away and at worst the nonurgent AND emergent uninsured/underinsured being turned away.

    i'd say a better solution is to do what we can to ensure that nobody is uninsured/underinsured.

    how's this- if you choose to go without insurance, emtala does not apply to you and you have no legal recourse for the consequenses of being turned away, no matter how sick you are when you get turned away. have this rule also apply to illegals as well.


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