GOP Rep. Raul Labrador: "Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care"

Lots of media hype for this remark this weekend, as it feeds the eternal narrative of the callous, out-of-touch Republican. You know it’s a bad soundbite when it requires an official Facebook Clarification™:

During ten hours of town halls, one of my answers about health care wasn’t very elegant. I was responding to a false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets, which I completely reject.

In a lengthy exchange with a constituent, I explained to her that Obamacare has failed the vast majority of Americans. In the five-second clip that the media is focusing on, I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that.

You can watch the key snippet in the first clip below or the fuller exchange, posted by Labrador himself, in the second. That yelp from the crowd is … really something. His point is true as far as it goes — if you stagger into the ER, they’ll treat you whether or not you’re insured. The question is how many people don’t go to the ER because they’re not sure how sick they are and don’t want to be stuck with a gargantuan medical bill they can’t pay in order to find out. If you’re uninsured and have a pain in your chest, you can (a) play it safe by getting it checked out knowing that the resulting debt might break you or (b) stay home to save money and try to tough it out, gambling that it’s heartburn and not something more serious. If your gamble doesn’t pay off…

Labrador could have wonked out on them instead, noting that one major study shows that people with Medicaid didn’t have better health outcomes than people who were completely uninsured. That’s a hard sell politically, though: Intuitively, some insurance seems better than no insurance, even to Republican governors. When Quinnipiac asked about the planned Medicaid cuts in the AHCA in its poll in March, things didn’t go well:

Rolling back Medicaid isn’t likely to play well with Senate Republicans either so who knows whether it’ll end up in a final GOP bill that lands on Trump’s desk. Labrador himself represents a district in Idaho so he’s probably safe notwithstanding this gaffe, but it’ll be attack-ad material for Democrats all next fall in other districts.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022