|“Let Him Die” Or Government Healthcare? That’s a False Dichotomy|
By Timothy H. Lee
Friday, September 16 2011
Americans are often subjected to a false dichotomy in our ongoing healthcare debate: Even more government healthcare versus letting people just die in the streets.
That false binary choice isn’t just intellectually sloppy. It also emotionally tilts the issue in a manner favorable toward advocates of ObamaCare or wholesale government takeover of the world’s most innovative healthcare sector. After all, the mental image of citizens without insurance being left to die in the gutters should cause any compassionate and reasonable person to recoil.
Unfortunately, a line of questioning from CNN host Wolf Blitzer during this week’s debate among Republican presidential candidates served to perpetuate that false dichotomy, to the subsequent glee of the leftist commentariat.
Here is a transcript of Blitzer’s exchange with Congressman Ron Paul:
Blitzer: Ron Paul, so you’re a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question. A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, ‘You know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it.’ But something happens. All of a sudden, he needs it. Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?
Paul: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.
Blitzer: Well, what do you want?
Paul: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would be to have a major medical policy, but not be forced…
Blitzer: But he doesn’t have that. He doesn’t have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?
Paul: That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody…
Blitzer: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?
Paul: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.
Unfortunately, Ron Paul didn’t respond nearly as well as he could have or should have.
First, we must keep a few important facts in mind. Of the uninsured in the United States, most are either not American citizens, are eligible for government assistance but unenrolled for their own reasons or earn above the median national income and are therefore capable of purchasing coverage.
Accordingly, various government-provided forms of assistance such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) currently exist for those unable to afford health coverage. In fact, some government assistance programs cover citizens earning several times the official poverty level. Thus, it is recklessly ignorant or dishonest to claim that those without private insurance are somehow left on their own or even to die on the streets.
Second, the hypothetical person without insurance as explicitly described by Blitzer in the debate “makes a good living,” and thus earns enough to purchase insurance but foolishly chooses not to do so. In such a case, that patient is likely capable of paying for the treatment he receives either out of existing assets or through future earnings. It’s no different than if he inflicted damage upon another person via automobile accident or other negligence – he could later be held accountable for the monetary consequences of his behavior through his current and future earnings.
How that simple reality escapes an established media figure such as Blitzer is troubling.
Third, as briefly referenced by Paul in his response, innumerable sources of private charitable care exist for the hypothetical patient described by Blitzer. Not only are many hospitals run by religious or other philanthropic organizations, but private contributions and partnerships exist to benefit those who cannot afford the care that they need. Moreover, physicians themselves across the nation also generously donate their time and efforts to care for those less fortunate.
Those who seek even more bureaucratic control of our healthcare options portray the issue as a choice between bigger government versus people without insurance “left to die.” That doesn’t accord with the facts, and we cannot allow them to succeed in using it as a ploy to advance their partisan agenda.
Related Articles :