Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina asserted on March 8 that everyone in America has medical "coverage" because they can go to emergency rooms (video below).
Meadows told CNN host Alisyn Camerota that Congress needed to make sure that everyone has "access" to health care coverage and health care in general.
Camerota reminded Meadows that access and health insurance coverage were not the same thing: “You can’t guarantee that everybody will have coverage.”
Meadows insisted that everyone does have coverage under federal law:
Well, we’ve got 318 million people. The goal is to insure or allow access to all. There’s a federal law right now that if you show up at a hospital, you get coverage, Alisyn. And so, it’s a false narrative to suggest we have people who can’t go in and get coverage. It’s a federal law.
The law that Meadows was referring to is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which only requires medical treatment in an emergency situation, notes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Hospitals are only required to stabilize the patient, or transfer the patient to another hospital. There is no requirement for non-emergency medical services.
Dr. Aaron Carroll wrote an op-ed for CNN.com in May 2012 debunking the myth that emergency rooms provide universal coverage for Americans:
For decades, the attempts at health care reform have aimed to increase access. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations in the world that does not provide universal health care to its citizens. And repeatedly, those who oppose it have been forced to argue that access isn't the problem some make it out to be. Why?
The emergency department, they say. After all, it is a commonly held belief that no one can be denied care there. So -- in essence -- everyone can get free health care if they need it. We have a universal system after all. That, of course, is not true. It's not even close...
"[E]mergency medical condition" has a pretty narrow definition. It includes active labor for women and acute conditions that would cause death, serious bodily organ harm or serious bodily function impairment if they were not treated right away.
Carroll later said that the "costs of treatment in the emergency room are not quickly dismissed or written off. You'll get that emergent care, but you'll also be charged for it."
Carroll said that in North Carolina (Meadows' state) "a group of nonprofit hospitals sued 40,000 patients from 2005 to 2010."