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Tea Party Debate: Audience Cheers, Says Society Should Let Uninsured Patient Die

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Wolf Blitzer asked a hypothetical question to Ron Paul about how society should respond if a healthy 30-year-old man with a good job who decided against buying health insurance suddenly goes into a coma and requires intensive care for six months. When Blitzer responded by saying, "Are you saying that society should just let him die?" several in the audience yelled "yeah" and started to cheer.

Conservative Andrew Sullivan writing for The Daily Beast's The Dish Tuesday noted that the United States obligates society to save someone in an emergency room. "America, moreover, has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to treat and try to save a human being who walks into an emergency room. So we have already made that collective decision and if the GOP wants to revisit it, they can," Sullivan wrote.

So what is your take on this? I'm interested to know.

If you agree with the crowd, should we also, out of consistency, remove the emergency room care law? And what are you thoughts on the crowd's cherring the hypothetical death of a reckless/negligent man?

If you disagree with the crowd, why should society be legally coerced (as opposed to simply letting charities move in) to help a man who was unwilling to be risk averse and now we must foot the bill and pay for his reckless and negligent attitude and behavior? What are your thoughts on the free-rider problem?

4 Replies

  • Before I answer, let me just mention there were at most 4 voices yelling 'yeah'. Your conviction of the audience/crowd is unfair and insulting to the intelligence of anyone who watched.

    I'm not a fan of Ron Paul, and I'm even less of a fan of his followers, but his answer was "no".

    The laws mandating care are good ones, and while I believe they should be state laws, that's a pretty minor point. That said, if it is clear the patient has no insurance, or ability to pay, some of the luxuries that hospitals provide these days should not be a part of that mandate. Single bed suites, $50,000 adjustable beds and the latest, greatest cost is no object technology and pharmaceuticals should not be borne by the tax payer, charities or the hospital. If we're not willing to buy insurance, we're most likely going to be sticking it to someone else, and shouldn't expect to be treated like royalty.

    Also, there needs to be some kind of mediator in cases where someone is not likely to survive. My wife used to be an ICU nurse, and it seemed there was usually at least one patient who's chances of survival was extremely slim, and quality of life would never return, yet the family would insist that every effort be made to keep the patient alive; sometimes against the patient's stated desire. The fact that Medicare, Medicaid, or insurance were paying the bills or an there was an empty estate, gave the family the license to run up astronomical medical costs only to prolong the patient's suffering.

    I don't know if you've been in a hospital lately, but the competition to lure patients seems to have turned it into a luxury hotel business, and since insurance is paying the bill, we don't think twice about cost. I've been uninsured several times in my life, and when I'm paying out of pocket, you can be sure I'm asking what it's going to cost before I make an appointment. I feel insurance is the reason health care cost so much these days; we've got this attitude that since insurance is paying (and we're getting ripped off by the insurance company), we demand nothing less than 5 star treatment.

    As to your last questions, legal coercion is sadly needed because hospitals aren't run by charitable organizations anymore, and the drive to hit profit quotas can and does destroy compassion. The free rider problem can be helped by doing the same thing we did with student loans by not erasing the debt with bankruptcy. Restructuring it is fine, and adjusting the bill the same way insurance companies do would be fine, but claiming bankruptcy and walking away is unfair to the society that picks up the tab.

    • Are you having an off day? Although there are wrinkles in your insurance arguments that I don't quite agree with, and even there not grossly so, tyhe rest of your answer is close enough that I find myself mostly in agreement. I doubt we agree on much else on this (or most) issues, but I like this as far as it goes.

      I even agree on the point that it did sound like no more than four or five people who yelled about 'letting him die'. (And Ron Paul's answer was, at best, evasive.) Were you embarrassed to hear the preemptive cheer for Perry's record of executions? (I mean, even if I were a death penalty supporter, I'd be disgusted.)

      • Thanks Tim, I've studied the health care problem for a long time, and with a wife on the inside, I've heard the industry's reasoning for the way they operate. It really seems that few people are really looking for solutions to the problem that we have created. It's either personal responsibility, or society's responsibility - nobody appears to be saying 'Why the hell is it so expensive in the first place?' or 'What can we do to bring down the costs without compromising outcomes?' The best answer I can come up with is to change our health insurance to be more like car insurance. Insure for catastrophic problems; force medical providers to post their prices with no breaks for insurance companies; encourage people to create health savings accounts to pay for preventative care and minor problems and start negotiating drug prices for medicare - if insurance companies can, so can the government.

        Perry is a fake in my opinion. I'm not a proponent of the death penalty because I think there are too many prosecutors who would gladly let a man be executed to save their career. I understand the crowd's cheers but I disagree.

  • whoa, step AWAY from the mutual agreement, sir/ma'am, and keep your hands where i can see them.

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