I am always amazed at the viciousness that pops up in the comments when I post about the uninsured, and the human consequences of being uninsured. I've been running this blog for six years now, and it's been a reliable and persistent phenomenon. In my most recent post, about the guy who died of a dental infection, an anonymous commenter, no doubt a good christian, left this gem:
So I'm supposed to feel bad for this guy, pay more taxes to help fund a government program that will "help" this lazy person, all the while I have to provide free care to him in the ED, take money away from me that I earned through hard work, [...] What happened to this man is terrible, but I have no sympathy for him or his family. He refused to seek out ways to help himself. This is in no way my, or your responsibility.
Hypothetically, shadowfax, if you had no insurance and your wife was diagnosed with her breast cancer, would you just buy the vicodin and say, "nice knowing you honey?" I'm sure you would seek ways to help get her the treatment she needed.
Steve worked 14 hours a day building beautiful guitars ... he barely eked out an existence with financial help from my husband and me. Money for health insurance? Don’t be ridiculous.
He was 63. He had to start Social Security early so he could afford to eat. He was too young for Medicare and too male for Medicaid. This nation does not recognize the years he spent working for others and making this economy grow, it only focused on the years he worked for himself, creating instruments of rare beauty.
When he had a pain in the butt, he had to wait until early in the morning of December 3rd to present himself at the ER of Highland Hospital, the Alameda County medical facility. There are guards at Highland, and a football field full of plastic chairs for the indigent to use while they wait treatment. He was sent home with a handful of Vicodin and a suggestion to follow up with a pulmonologist for the 3 cm spot the Xray showed on his lung. The soonest appointment was Feb 25.
He was in so much pain that he could not stand up for more than a few seconds at a time. He got Vicodin. And steroid suppositories. His buddies came up with the $2000 a proctologist wanted to do an outpatient surgery. But the hospital wanted $20,000 for use of the room for the brief procedure because he was uninsured.
But the attempt to remedy the problem, initially proposed and embraced by conservatives, has disingenuously morphed into an un-American assault on liberty. The irony is pointed out by Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times:
So who should pay? Right now, we all do.
What was so provocative about the question is that the health-reform plan routinely denounced as socialist — so-called Obamacare — seeks to get the freeloading guy to pay his own way. He'd have to get insurance or be fined. He'd pay for it himself, unless he were very poor. The idea is then there'd be no need for the rest of us to pick up his huge charity-care bills.
It's true that coercing people to buy insurance is not "freedom." But what's so aggravating about the health-care debate is that neither is what we have today. It sure seems socialistic that all of us have to cover the uninsured guy's bills, as we do today. Yet an effort to stop doing that — to try to get him to pay for himself — is what gets derided as un-American.