GOP Congressman Urges Self-Rationing Of Health Care After Obamacare Repeal

It's expensive to go to the E.R., so maybe wait a day to bring your kid with a broken arm to the doctor, says Rep. Bill Huizenga.
Rep. Bill Huizenga says people should consider putting off a trip to the E.R. to save money.
Rep. Bill Huizenga says people should consider putting off a trip to the E.R. to save money.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) says there’s “definitely” going to be changes in health care delivery after Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, and people are going to need to take more responsibility for the cost of their treatment.

He gave a personal example of how do this: When his 10-year-old son recently fell on the driveway one evening and injured his arm, Huizenga waited until the next day to take him to the doctor because it cost less than bringing him to the emergency room that night.

“We weren’t sure what was going on,” the GOP lawmaker said in a Monday interview with a local news outlet, “So I splinted it up, and we wrapped it up, and the decision was, okay, do we go to the E.R.? We thought it was a sprain, but weren’t sure. Took every precaution and decided to go in the next morning.”

It turned out his son’s arm was broken.

At a time when Republicans are broadcasting plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act next year, it’s an unsettling proposition that people with an undiagnosed and potentially serious ailment or broken body part should choose to get treated later, or less often, to save money.

Huizenga said he “certainly” would have brought his son to the E.R. that night if he appeared seriously injured. But he’s not a doctor who can make a clear assessment. A broken bone not treated properly, for example, can fuse incorrectly and require a fresh break to heal properly. What appears to be a lingering cold may be pneumonia, which, left untreated, will make a person sicker and cost even more to remedy. Cancer not caught early is much more likely to be fatal.

For all their complaints about Obama’s signature accomplishment, Republicans have yet to unveil a health care replacement for the Affordable Care Act despite vowing to do so for nearly six years. The program currently provides 20 million people with health insurance.

The Michigan congressman’s comments are in line with a long-held, free-market view of the health care system. But a free market assumes actors are free to make choices. A sick or badly injured person is often not the best negotiator. And Huizenga’s child, of course, didn’t get to make his own choice.

“At some point or another, we have to be responsible, or have part of the responsibility for what’s going on,” Huizenga said. “When it’s those types of things ― do you keep your child home from school and take them the next morning to the doctor because of a cold or a flu versus taking them into the emergency room ― if you don’t have any cost difference, you know, you’ll make different decisions.”

A request for comment from Michigan Children’s Protective Services on the appropriateness of Huizenga’s decision was not returned.

UPDATE: Dec. 22 ― Huizenga said Wednesday night that he used “a poor choice of words” to highlight his son’s broken arm as a political point.

Ryan Grim contributed reporting.

Before You Go


Health Care Reform Efforts In U.S. History

Popular in the Community


What's Hot