Pawlenty to unisured: Drop dead


Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is very good at playing the sensible conservative. He’s got that aw-shucks, Minnesota nice attitude that makes him sound like the type of conservative who isn’t actually bent on destroying anyone below the upper middle class.

This is what makes him very dangerous.

Because in his heart, Pawlenty is no moderate. He’s a conservative — a radical one — who has never met a tax cut he didn’t like, or a spending cut he wasn’t willing to make, so long as they attach to the right people. (Oh, he was more than happy to cut the renter’s tax rebate program, so people who rent — disproportionately poor people — get less back in taxes. But that’s different. Those people are poor.)

Pawlenty is now running for president, and he is, one assumes, getting ready to move enough rightward to try to make teabaggers into T-Paw baggers. His first step? Kill the poor:

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“On the Record with Greta Van Sustren” last night, Pawlenty said the federal law that mandates ER treatment should be repealed.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.”

So let’s say a guy with the condition I’m recovering from comes into the ER. He doesn’t have insurance. He’s presenting with some pain and swelling of a sensitive area, but that isn’t necessarily cancer; could be torsion. Could be a hydrocele. Could be all sorts of minor, non-life-threatening conditions. Does he stay, or does he go?

If he stays, he gets the ultrasound that proves it’s cancer, thus starting treatment that saves his life. If he goes, he does so knowing that he can’t afford the doctor. So he lets things get worse. And worse. And worse.

If he goes back — when his guts ache and his brain is foggy — the treatment regimen is now more expensive. And less likely to succeed. A surgery and treatment plan that would have had 99 percent success now gives odds closer to 50/50. If our patient survives, he’ll face crushing medical debt that can only be alleviated via bankruptcy. If he dies, he dies.

This is Tim Pawlenty’s bold medical proposal — let the uninsured suffer, and die, so that ERs don’t have to take in the poor. This is something, incidentally, not even hospitals are clamoring for – they’d just like Pawlenty to sign on to an extension of medical assistance, a bill Pawlenty vetoed because…well, it helps the poor, I guess.

Nobody should risk death because of a lack of health care. The system we have — in which the poor at least can go to an ER to get treated — is absolutely awful. Pawlenty wants to take that last snippet of a safety net, and whisk it away — leaving the uninsured to die in the process. That is not conservative. That is evil.