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Saturday, December 10, 2016

During a Republican primary debate in the last presidential election cycle, there was a dispiriting moment in which Tea Party audience members cheered at the idea that a comatose uninsured American — unable to afford health insurance — would be left to die. That infamous outburst, among others, has prompted GOP bigwigs to try to cut back on primary season debates, hoping to limit appearances that might expose the party’s baser impulses.

But that mean-spirited and contemptuous attitude toward the sick is alive and well in the Grand Old Party, as its maniacal (and futile) resistance to Obamacare has made clear. Now, one Republican politician is pushing that callousness to new lows: He wants to bar the uninsured from hospital emergency rooms.

Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal criticized a decades-old federal law that requires all hospitals that receive Medicare funds and have emergency facilities — and that’s most — to treat any patient who walks in needing care, regardless of his ability to pay. “It came as a result of bad facts,” Deal said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And we have a saying that bad facts make bad law.”

Deal says that many people use emergency rooms unnecessarily, and those patients inflate health care costs. He is factually correct. But there are other facts that undercut his arguments and reveal his hypocrisy.

First off, Deal is among those red-state Republicans who have vociferously opposed the Affordable Care Act, which makes health insurance available to hundreds of thousands of people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. If more people had health insurance policies that paid for doctors’ visits, fewer would use emergency rooms for routine complaints.

Second, Deal, like many Republican governors, has refused the Medicaid expansion made possible by Obamacare, even though the federal government would pick up 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and 90 percent until the year 2022. That expansion is the best chance many Georgians without means have for getting health insurance.

So, to sum up, Deal hates Obamacare and refuses its Medicaid expansion, which would keep the working poor out of emergency rooms. In addition, he wants to deny them access to emergency rooms unless they can pay. Really, governor? Don’t you insist that your values are “pro-life”?