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Planned Parenthood Action Fund Statement on Romney's claim that a visit to the emergency room is a form of health care for uninsured Americans

Contact: Planned Parenthood Action Fund Media Office, 212-261-4433

For Immediate Release: 09.24.12

Washington, DC — Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, issued the following statement in response to Mitt Romney’s claim in a 60 Minutes interview that a visit to the emergency room is a form of health care for uninsured Americans:

“How out of touch can Mitt Romney be?  An emergency room is designed for emergencies — not preventive health care.

“More than 30 million Americans — who would otherwise be uninsured — stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act.  The notion that an emergency room is where these Americans should go for their ongoing health care needs is out of touch, irresponsible, and downright wrong.

“The Affordable Care Act is providing immediate and measurable benefits for previously uninsured Americans — in direct contradiction to the claims made by Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.  Ask any patient or health care provider, and they’ll tell you that a visit to the emergency room is not the best form of non-urgent health care.  It is and should remain a last resort for emergency health care.

“The Affordable Care Act is the greatest advance in women’s health in a generation, providing concrete preventive health care benefits for women, including access to birth control and cancer screenings without co-pays, guaranteed direct access to ob/gyn providers without referrals, and an end to discriminatory practices against women, such as charging women higher premiums and denying coverage for ‘pre-existing conditions.’

“This is coming from the same candidate who said he would ‘get rid’ of Planned Parenthood, which would deny women access to birth control and cancer screenings, and who said he would end the nation’s family planning program, which provides preventive care to nearly five million women, and cut off access to birth control for women who need it most.

“Planned Parenthood Action Fund is the nation’s leading advocate for Planned Parenthood health centers, and sees firsthand the women who are being hurt by the policies being pushed forward by out-of-touch politicians like Mitt Romney.  Women and middle class families deserve affordable and accessible basic preventive health care services, and if a ‘leave it to the states’ approach has taught us anything, it’s that women’s lives are at stake.  Cuts and attacks on women’s health in states like Texas (the state with the highest rate of uninsured people) are a preview of Mitt Romney’s plan for women’s health across America.” 

Specifics on emergency room care:
• According to a fact sheet from the American College of Emergency Physicians, about half of all care received in emergency rooms is uncompensated. 
• In a 2010 interview with MSNBC, Mitt Romney said, “It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility.”
• According to an article from Kaiser Health News, “At least half of all hospitals nationwide now charge upfront ER fees.”
• According to a statement from Peter Cunningham, senior fellow and director of Quantitative Research at the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging in 2011, “[Emergency department] (ED) use for nonurgent health problems is associated with greater fragmentation and discontinuity of care with the patients’ primary care physicians and other medical providers they use.  Studies have found that communication and coordination of care between EDs and primary care physicians tends to be haphazard and generally poor, which is exacerbated by a lack of shared information systems that could facilitate communication.  The lack of coordination and continuity between EDs and other providers in the community often leads to duplicative testing and other redundant utilization, complicates appropriate follow-up care, and increases the risk of medical errors.”

Specifics on the benefits from the Affordable Care Act:

• According to Kaiser Health News, “Starting next month, under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will penalize hospitals that don’t do enough to keep those who are admitted from coming back repeatedly for preventable reasons.”
• More than 45 million women have already received coverage for preventive health screenings — including mammograms and Pap tests — at no cost since August 2010 thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and millions more will be able to get free screenings in the coming years.
• So far 3.1 million young adults have already been able to stay on their parents’ insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.  In the next year, millions more who would have otherwise lost coverage will continue to be insured under their parents’ plan.
• Women are guaranteed direct access to ob/gyn providers without a referral as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
• In August, the birth control benefit went into effect, making birth control available without co-pays or deductibles.  On average, women spend up to $600 a year on birth control.

According to a Census Bureau report released last week, the number of uninsured Americans fell for the first time in four years as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “These data further suggest that federal policies were responsible for the gains in coverage.  The largest increase in coverage, according to the CDC data, occurred among young adults, a group benefiting from an Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision allowing adult children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ private insurance plans.”

The 60 Minutes interview transcript is below:

PELLEY:  Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don't have it today?
ROMNEY:  Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance, people -- we -- if someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and -- and die.  We -- we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care.  And different states have different ways of providing for that care.
PELLEY:  That's the most expensive way to do it.
ROMNEY:  Well the...
PELLEY:  In the emergency room.
ROMNEY:  Diff -- different, again, different states have different ways of doing that.  Some -- some provide that care through clinics.  Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state.  But I wouldn't take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, “You've got to take the Massachusetts model.''

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.