Republican State Rep John Becker has a solution to Ohio’s healthcare woes and it goes something like this:
1. Pick one hospital in every urban area to be “designated for indigent care”
2. Staff the hospital with low-paid “interns, volunteers, students and trainees”
3. Give all of the hospital workers “immunity from malpractice litigation”
4. Force all poor people to “be transferred to their designated” indigent hospital
Boom! Done and Done. Poor people get substandard care and “suburban hospitals are freed of the burden of providing indigent care and then cost shifting to the rest of us.” Health care… solved.
Sadly, I’m not kidding. This is actually the plan Becker outlined in the February edition of his Becker Report Website, a month after being elected to Ohio’s House of Representatives.
And last week he started introducing legislation to implement this plan.
HB271, if passed into law, would effectively prevent the poor, who receive free, indigent medical care, from suing a doctor for medical malpractice (with the exception of an abortion doctor, of course).
Becker’s bill takes a very limited and focused part of the law that grants immunity to “volunteer” medical professionals helping indigent patients with simple and routine medical and dental care, and expands it to apply to pretty much any medical procedure including major surgery, anesthesia and child birth.
He even gives health care professionals and health care workers immunity for actions “outside the scope of [their] authority” and “beyond the scope of [their] practice… education, training, and competence.”
So under Becker’s bill, a chiropractor performing knee surgery, a dentist delivering a baby or even a medical student prescribing heart medication could not be sued, as long as their patient is poor or indigent.
In essence, Becker hopes to set up a two-tier health care system in Ohio. One set of hospitals where poorly paid, poorly trained and inexperienced staff treat poor patients, and another where experienced doctors treat “the rest of us”.
It is a nasty, mean-spirited and selfish plan that would have a devastating impact, especially Ohio’s low-income pregnant women, babies and children.
Ohio already has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country for African American children, and the fourth highest rate in the country. And neighborhoods around the hospitals Becker suggests we designate indigent-only facilities have rates that are off the charts; rates higher than countries like Vietnam and Libya.
Becker’s plan would most certainly result in even higher infant mortality rates, especially when combined with a another bill Becker introduced in August (HB 255) that would kick thousands of Ohio’s pregnant women and low income families off Medicaid and into the type of care Becker hopes will now be performed by interns, students and trainees.
So far there hasn’t been much support shown for Becker’s crazy plan. His immunity bill has zero co-sponsors. And his Medicaid bill had only one, Matt Lynch, another state rep who has sponsored a series of anti immigrant bills similar to the ones passed in Arizona.
While we may not see Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature embrace Becker’s bills and his plan, that’s only because Becker put into writing what most Republicans feel but are afraid to say in public because it sounds too mean and uncaring. Make no mistake, this is exactly the kind of system Republicans envision for our country, and you only have to look at Washington today and the fact that Republicans shut down the federal government in order to prevent more Americans from getting health care coverage.
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