Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ron Paul Flummoxed on Health Care Question

A good question from Wolf Blitzer to Ron Paul that you can see at YouTube here. Suppose a healthy 30 year old guy takes a risk and says he's going to go without health insurance. The worst is realized and he's in a coma. Should the government pay or should we let him die?

Paul struggles here. The ideologues in the audience (notice at about the 50 second mark) say sure, let him die. It's easy to talk that way when you are anonymous. That's the kind of thing someone might say in a blog comment stream. But say that on the record in front of millions of people. It's pretty grotesque. Paul knows that so he doesn't say it. He stammers for a bit, then finally comes up with the "charities" solution. Let private charities resolve it. He's never seen anyone that needed care turned away.

But they are already turned away and that's with some government support. With no government support even more will be turned away. Paul does not have a solution here other than the ideological one. Let him die. But I think that violates basic moral sensibilities for too many people, so it's kind of untenable.


HispanicPundit said...

I personally think the sad part here is that we can't respect peoples decisions.

So many policies would be so much better, both in terms of fairness and in terms of efficiency, if only we did have the backbone to respect peoples decisions.

People really would have the option to opt out - if we could only let them live (or yes, die) with those consequences. I'd really really honestly love to opt out of social-security and medicare and provide for myself in old age. I am fairly confident that I can do it far better than the forced government method. But because if I fail the government would be forced to bail me out, I am not given that option.

I say he made the decision, he should be allowed to die. Or like Ron Paul said, let charities deal with the situation.

But then again - I am also the guy who believes people have a right to commit suicide if they chose to.

Jon said...

Personally I think it's a little bit like partial birth abortion. A normal person can think abortion should be legal. Ask them about aborting a fetus that is 8 months old and viable? No. That's a bridge to far. An ideologue supports it anyway, but you don't see Nancy Pelosi or others like her saying it so boldly because it's repugnant.

Same here. We are the richest country in the world. Countries far poorer can figure out a way, as a society, from preventing conditions that lead to such harrowing choices. A 30 year old guy that's maybe not flush with cash may make a poor decision for some financial gain. Understandable. Health insurance is expensive. But the logic for Paul says not only should this guy be left to die. Everyone that can't afford it, which is a lot of people, many of whom are poor because of forces beyond their control, should be left to die. I don't think I can really argue with you about it. If you don't see a problem you don't see a problem.

You can probably save for your own retirement better than you can via Social Security. SS operates on a different principle. Your principle is every man for himself. The SS principle says take care of those among you that can't take care of themselves.

You might do better. But SS is an insurance program. Suppose there's a Great Depression just prior to when you retire. You can't find work and your savings is wiped out. On SS you don't starve. Or suppose you become disabled tomorrow. On SS you don't starve. You're not going to soar to great heights with it, but you stay out of the gutter.

Nick said...

Why should society pay for a person's decision not to finance their own care? The situation described was one about a person who could afford insurance, not about someone in poverty.

HispanicPundit said...

The High Priest makes my point for me. I was just going to respond that I have no problem with government subsidizing the healthcare of the poor.

I mentioned social security and medicare - not medicaid. I think medicaid has a purpose.

The question here was with those who can afford healthcare but opt out.

Your bait and switch may help you feel morally superior, but it misses the point completely.

Jon said...

HP, this post is not about you. It's about Ron Paul. Ron Paul is very ideological. Unlike you he does not support think the government should help the poor. That's why he's flummoxed but you wouldn't be.

Fair point on the fact that this is about a 30 year old that can afford insurance. My mistake on that. I listened to the exchange in the morning and wrote the post later and forgot about that. I think under these circumstances the right wing response is more plausible. Not that I accept it, but it's more credible.

Paul said...

The question here was with those who can afford healthcare but opt out.

what happens if someone has an accident (or whatever) and needs immediate and happens to not have proof of insurance. Are you going to mandate that everyone carry one?

Seth said...

Uhm, I carry my health insurance card in my wallet, just like my auto insurance card or my drivers license or my credit cards....

So it should not be a problem for a person to carry proof of insurance.

HispanicPundit said...


You are addressing a different question. I do think that a system that FULLY takes peoples decisions into account is difficult, if not unworkable. For the reason you mention as well as others.

But my point is that if you absolutely new for certain that someone intentionally, consciously, and in the proper state of mind decided to forego healthcare because they wanted to pocket even more money - even though they could have afforded healthcare in the first place - then even in those extreme circumstances, should you really feel ashamed to respect the persons decisions when things go bad?

I dont think so. Others might.

Paul said...

HP -

I never mind when people, alone, suffer the ill consequences of their bad judgment. I mind when those same people; consciously, unconsciously, subconsciously, intentionally, unintentionally, negligently or whatever - cause the rest of us suffer and/or pay for it as well.

If someone matched the description you provide - happened to develop cancer and are now unable to get insurance I sincerely doubt (i.e. don't believe) that they are going to just accept their fate quitely an unobtrusively and die.

HispanicPundit said...

True - but when they cry about it, I wish more of us would simply ignore them.

"You've dug your own grave, now ly in it" I wish would be our response, with a shrug.

Jon said...

Here's what I'd think would make more sense from a liberterian perspective. If you get hit by a truck the first thing the medics do is try and save your life. No time to even waste digging through your pockets to find an insurance card.

So we've saved your life and suppose you are stable but in a coma. We now discover you've opted out of insurance. We're going to save your life, but you will have to pay the costs back over the coming years.

If you really have decided that you'd rather die than be burdened with the debt then you have an obligation to carry some sort of information with you making sure that choice is communicated to the doctors. If that is your choice, but you fail to communicate it properly (like you don't have your card with you) then the burden falls to you to repay the bills. The doctors still save your life. We can't ask doctors to pull the plug unless they are absolutely sure because if it turns out you had insurance but we failed to discover it, then that doctor would be burdened with guilt, which itself is unfair.

That's maybe not perfect, but the way I see it value judgments are not like mathematical axioms that don't conflict. This is a messy world. There isn't always a right answer when it comes to moral judgments. When I was a Christian I thought there was, but now I don't. We are really contradictory animals.

The non-liberterian solution resolves this much more easily. A single payer or public options system is beneficial on so many levels. Resolves these conflicts AND solves our deficit and debt problem. Pretty amazing that a country as rich as ours leads to people struggling over choices like this. Much poorer countries do it better.

Sheldon said...

Yeah, but lets get real, you really have to be making a very good income to afford insurance without employer contribution. There were plenty of times when I was around 30yrs old and could not afford insurance unless that is where every single penny of my after rent, food and other essentials were paid for. How realistic is that? Should a person never have a beer, go to the movies or anything else to afford insurance? And with the private for profit insurance system, why should a healthy person pay into the coffers of wealthy executives just in case you need it? The single payer solution is far superior, not for profit, everybody pays in through a tax, and everybody is covered by virtue of being a human being.