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Dodging the question
September 13, 2011 - Jim Anderson
A Census Bureau report issued today shows that nearly 50 million Americans are without health coverage.
At Monday night’s CNN/Tea Party Express debate among the Republican presidential candidates, Wolf Blitzer posed a question to Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann about the uninsured (transcript from Kaiser Health News):
BLITZER ... You're a physician, 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 terrible 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 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.
PAUL: And we've given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that's the reason the cost is so high.
The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.
There's no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, go ahead and weigh in on this hypothetical 30-year-old who needs six months of intensive care, has no insurance.
BACHMANN: Well, first of all, what I want to say, with all due respect to the governors, I've read this health care bill, I've been fighting this fight the last couple of years.
BLITZER: Which health care bill?
BACHMANN: President Obama's Obamacare bill. And waivers and executive orders won't cut it. If you could solve Obamacare with an executive order, any president could do it and any president could undo it. That's not -- not how it can be done.
Plus, no state has the constitutional right to force a person as a condition of citizenship to buy a product or service against their will. It's unconstitutional...
... whether it's the state government or whether it's the federal government. The only way to eradicate Obamacare is to pull it out by the root and branch to fully repeal it. It's the only way we're going to get rid of it.
And this is why I'm running for the presidency of the United States, because 2012 is it. This is the election that's going to decide if we have socialized medicine in this country or not. This is it.
In summary, Paul believes “neighbors, friends and churches” can care for the uninsured. Or they might try “alternative” medicine. Bachmann never answers Blitzer’s question at all, though she states her strong opposition to the insurance mandate included in the Affordable Care Act.
The main provisions of the Affordable Care Act won’t take effect until 2014. When they do, it’s estimated that 32 million people will gain health coverage through an expansion of Medicaid and tax credits. The credits will help low- and moderate-income people purchase coverage through new insurance exchanges.
There are many things to question about the Affordable Care Act and, as well, the numbers quoted above. It’s fair to say, though, that the number of uninsured — now 50 million — will drop considerably if it is allowed to take effect.
I’m always interested in hearing alternative solutions to the enormous problem of the uninsured. What I heard from this snippet of the GOP debate was little more than dodging rhetoric.
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