Yesterday, the Boston Globe had a rather lengthy — and troubling — story about the state of Bay State emergency rooms. People seeking medical attention there have long waits to see a doctor, largely due to cutbacks and overcrowding. In short, more and more people are seeking to use scarcer and scarcer resources. It’s not a pretty situation.
The story goes into substantial detail about the underlying causes of the problems. Budget cuts in ER beds. Scarcity of beds in psychiatric hospitals, meaning such patients are kept in the ER until space is found for them.
The story is based on reports the hospitals have to file with the state, and as such they don’t include other factors that might be germane. And heaven forfend the Globe should actually go forth and commit journalism.
One of the biggest causes of the hospital crisis in the Southwest is the burden of caring for illegal aliens. These people tend to treat the ER as their first, last, and only source of medical attention. Also, they lack medical insurance and rarely pay their bills, meaning that the hospitals get stuck with the tab. As a consequence, many hospitals in that area have had to completely shut down their ERs — or risk going belly-up.
Massachusetts has a very large illegal alien population. In fact, one Brazilian “immigrant rights advocate” is on record as saying that over 2/3 of the 250,000 Brazilians in the Bay State are there illegally — and that’s just from one nation.
How many of these people overcrowding the ERs are using it as a free clinic? And how many of them are here illegally? The reports don’t tell us, because it’s illegal for the hospitals to even inquire about such things. (The wisdom of that policy is certainly debatable, but not really germane here.) The Globe could have done a few visits to ERs and asked for themselves, but why bother?
I’ve been taken to an ER exactly six times in my life, and that is more than enough for me, thank you. (Once was in junior high, when I caught a line drive in my eye — and they had to pick shards of my glasses out of my eyeball. Another was when I finally couldn’t hold my head up straight, and they diagnosed a sprained neck I’d suffered almost a week before. And then there was the time I was having symptoms of a heart attack, but it turned out to be pericarditis.) In each case, I was treated quickly, thoroughly, and professionally. And in one case, when I lacked medical insurance, I got socked with a several-thousand-dollar bill that I eventually paid off.
It would have been nice to just let that bill go, let the hospital suck up the loss and move on. But that wasn’t an option. Besides the fact that they had my name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number, I honestly owed the money. It wasn’t easy, and it took some serious time, but I paid off that debt.
Had I been an illegal alien, though, I could have simply given a bogus name and address, said I had no Social Security number, and still gotten treated just the same without the worry of that bill coming back to haunt me.
Pity that the Boston Globe didn’t even try to find the full story here. But that’s pretty much par for the course for them — when the facts might contradict their agenda, they tend to get short shrift.