In the Republican debates the other night, Ron Paul was asked a hypothetical question about a healthy young man who goes without health insurance, but is then struck down by a major illness.
Do we step up and give him the medical treatment that he needs, Paul was asked, or do we just let him die as penalty for not doing the smart and responsible thing? (That second suggestion drew cheering from a small number in the crowd.)
Paul responded by suggesting that we should turn to private charity to handle the problem, which isn’t in the slightest bit feasible.
As it turns out, though, the question struck closer to home than most people realized, as Seth Abramovitch reports for Gawker.
Kent Snyder, 49, served as Paul’s 2008 campaign manager but died of complications from pneumonia two weeks after Paul withdrew from the ‘08 race. As the Wall Street Journal reported in Snyder’s obituary (which happened to be matched with the obituary of Sen. Jesse Helms):
“It was Kent more than anyone else who encouraged and pushed Ron to run for president,” said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Mr. Paul. “Ron would not have run for the presidency if it had not been for Kent. Ron was really hesitant, but Kent drove him forward.”
However, Snyder did not have health insurance. According to his mother, he had a pre-existing condition that made it financially impossible to buy it on his own. (Interestingly, Snyder is credited with raising $19.5 million for the Paul campaign in the fourth quarter of 2007 alone, but none of that money was apparently used to buy insurance for campaign staffers.)
Because we treat health care as a de facto right in this country, Snyder did get at least some health care, racking up $400,000 in unpaid medical bills before he died. A fundraising effort after his death — the charity approach advocated by Paul — produced only $35,000 toward paying off those bills.
That’s not an unusual story. I’m aware of at least three similar instances among my extended circle of neighbors and friends, two involving cancer and one involving a major heart attack. In all three cases medical care was provided despite the fact that the victims didn’t have insurance, and in all three cases that treatment has been successful to date.
The patients involved didn’t come close to having the resources to pay off their bills. But somebody paid them. You did, and I did, and we paid Kent Snyder’s bill as well. It’s a convoluted, extremely irrational, unnecessarily expensive and inefficient system, and the only two approaches that show any promise of rationalizing it are the individual mandate or single-payer.
But because that is allegedly “socialism”, many would prefer no solution at all.
– Jay Bookman