I watched Ron Paul’s response to Wolf Blitzer’s medical insurance question and I do not hear anybody in the audience shouting “let him die”. I do hear strong applause in response to Paul’s comment “that’s what freedom is all about—taking your own risks”. And I do hear a couple audience member shouting “yeah!” to Blitzers question “are you saying that society should just let him die?” The audience reaction got a lot of attention this week. But it seems to me Blitzers line of questioning (and lack of follow-up) was the bigger story.
The first thing is that Blitzers hypothetical “young man, makes a good living” is a bit of a straw man in this context. The point of the healthcare debate is not so much about the young man who makes a good living. It’s more about the young man or woman who does not make a “good living”. It’s about the baseline we are willing to accept as a society. How low are we willing to set the bar?
Secondly, it seems to me that the obvious follow-up question Blitzer should have asked is:
Blitzer: OK Mr. Paul, well when that (uninsured) young man shows up in the emergency room after a car accident are the doctors going to treat him or not?
Now make that young man an old grandpa with Alzheimer’s disease. Or a baby with RSV. Yes I know we have Medicaid for the very poor and Medicare for the elderly. But lots of folks are falling through the cracks (about 1 in 6)!
Then it might have been nice if Blitzer quizzed Paul on the economics so we could listen to Paul’s’ explanation of how if we just let the market do it’s job, see, and privatized everything, our healthcare costs would not be rising at double-digit annual rates.
So fie on Blitzer, for the straw man of a scenario and the total lack of follow-up.