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Duly Noted

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011, 4:44 pm

Ron Paul’s Former Campaign Manager Died Uninsured, Free

By Lindsay Beyerstein

Ron Paul, 2011.   Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons.

At CNN's Tea Party debate on Monday, Wolf Blitzer asked presidential hopeful Ron Paul what should happen to a 30-year-old uninsured man who needs expensive medical care. Should the state pay?

"That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody—" Paul began, before he was drowned out by hoots of glee from the audience. Blitzer asked if we should just let the guy die, which drew cheers from the crowd. Paul allowed that maybe churches could step in and fill the void.

In light of that exchange, Truthout revisited the tragic story of the death of Paul's 2008 campaign manager, Kent Snyder. Synder died penniless and uninsured of viral pneumonia at the age of 49, two weeks after Paul ended his presidential campaign. His friends started a website to help his mother pay the $400,000 in medical bills he left behind.

After a few weeks of fundraising they'd raised $32,000. At the rate they were going, we can predict that someone else ended up not-so-freely absorbing some of the cost of Snyder's insurance-freedom--whether it was his mother, the state, or the hospital.

Shortly after Snyder's death, Craig Max, a D.C. Republican activist, told the Washington Blade that Snyder's death sparked a debate within the Ron Paul camp about whether the campaign should have provided health insurance.

As soon as I posted the Truthout link on facebook, a Paul supporter jumped in to accuse me of being unfair to Ron Paul. After all, it's not his fault that the entire health insurance system is screwed up.

Maybe it was ridiculously expensive for the Paul campaign to buy health insurance despite its $35 million war chest. Maybe Snyder had some preexisting condition that made him difficult to insure. I've heard this speculation offered to minimize or excuse the situation. But even if these conjectures were true, they'd be exactly the problems that make Snyder's sad end emblematic of the flaws in our health care system.

We don't know exactly why Snyder was uninsured. The bottom line is that it shouldn't be possible to be uninsured. Because we've already decided that we're not going to let people die because they can't pay for emergency treatment.

As much as Paul may fume about it, we've got the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 that prevents ERs from simply dumping those who can't pony up for an IV or an ambubag. We're not savages.

But since we know we're going to offer this care, we should have a more equitable way to pay for it, like, say, single-payer health insurance. At least Snyder and all the other young invincibles would have been paying into the system while they were healthy and working.

Ron Paul isn't just any boss who didn't provide health insurance for his employee. He's a politician who argues that the system is supposed to work this way. Forget what might happen in the totally free-market fantasy world that Paul is selling. In practice he wants employers to be free to not insure their employees and employees to be free not to be insured and private insurers to be free to charge whatever the market will bear and refuse to cover anyone they think might be a bad risk.

 

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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