The myth that the poor are deprived of medical treatment in the U.S. is a cherished one in the current debate. When I tried to point out a week or two ago that in France (as in Britain and as on the planet generally) there are two levels of medical service — one for the rich, one for the poor — Yglesias and others similar couldn't wait to point out that at least the French poor can get treatment when they need it. What a stack of angry e-mails.
Yet, in the U.S., as many Americans (although not, apparently, many Europeans or Yglesians) know, under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, anyone who can be dragged through an ER door will receive medical treatment so long as their condition is an "emergency" — and being left to die in the street probably qualifies. In fact, when I asked an expert on this topic (for reasons I can't understand, she didn't want her name or the name of her organization cited) if a sprained ankle or broken leg would qualify as an "emergency," she told me that an ear infection would probably qualify. Common sense would tell you that if you walk into an ER filled with chest-clutching geezers, you might be happier coming back another day, but treatment can't be denied. Hospitals are not allowed to ask about money before giving this kind of medical treatment and ability to pay cannot be a factor in providing it. It's given to all comers, no matter where they're from or what language they speak. As Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out here some years ago, the penalties for violating the statute are severe.
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