Kent Snyder, Ron Paul's campaign chair, died of pneumonia a couple of weeks ago after two months in the hospital. He was openly gay.
Here's what Paul had to say about Snyder:
Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for Freedom. He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family... Without Kent Snyder, the fight for liberty would not be where it is today. We all owe him a great debt.
Snyder wasn't provided health care with his job in the campaign, even though Ron Paul raised over $35M and the Clinton, Edwards, Obama, and McCain campaigns all provided health care to their staffers. Surely there would have been enough money in there to provide basic coverage to at least his senior staff?
I'm not saying that health care coverage could have saved Snyder's life. He got medical attention in the end - two months in the hospital - and he's leaving behind $400K in debt.
One of the arguments that small-government conservatives usually make against universal health care is that people get treatment currently, so universal care isn't needed. But that's missing the point. Who's going to pay for Snyder's bill now that he's dead?
I'm sure that part of it was already paid with the money he had when he was alive (who knows how big that bill was originally). Some will be absorbed by the hospital, with costs to be passed on to other people who use that hospital in the form of higher fees all around. Some will be absorbed through various government funds, with the bill to be paid by the tax payer. And some will go on to Snyder's family (remember how health care costs are the number one reason for bankruptcy in the US? It's situations like these....)
In other words, the biggest reason why libertarian Republicans oppose universal health care - it'll cost money - is basically already happening right now. And considering that the US currently pays a bit under double per person what Switzerland does (and they pay more than anyone other than us for their universal health care), it just goes to show that we can't afford to continue with our non-system.
Ron Paul is asking his supporters to help pay off the $400K. It's kind of him, but that sort of begging doesn't work for everyone. It only works for the public and the highly connected, people who know people like Ron Paul, not the average American.
Ron Paul's solution for health care woes right now is to individualize the tax credit that businesses get to provide health care, meaning that people won't be able to pool together for coverage. People with pre-existing conditions, like Kent Snyder who had a "chronic blood disorder," would have a near impossible time getting coverage under Paul's plan.
This story, while tragic, shows that we need to enact the following reforms to our health care system:
- Decouple employment and health care. People in non-traditional and temporary jobs like Snyder don't often get health care coverage, even though they need it just as much as everyone else. And even if it's an industry standard to provide health care (like it pretty much is now in major presidential campaigns), some employers will still refuse to, and will use someone's commitment to the cause to keep them in a job with no health care. There's no reason to keep employment and health care together - it doesn't encourage anyone to work, it just denies people coverage.
- Decouple marriage and health care. If he weren't gay, Snyder may have been able to find a wife who could cover him through her job. But he was, and whether he was in a relationship or not, he could not get coverage through his partner. Much like employment, it makes no sense to link marital status and health care coverage.
TBP contributor Nancy Polikoff writes on the subject of marriage and coverage in her book Beyond (Gay and Straight) Marriage :
Employers adjusting benefits to today's demographics should cover these families. Marriage should not be required. A person with an unmarried partner of either sex is twice as likely as a married person to lack health insurance. For married couples, coverage as a dependent is almost as important a predictor of having health insurance as coverage through one's own full-time job. Thirty-sex percent of married people are insured through a spouse's employer-based coverage; less than 5 percent of those with unmarried partners have such coverage.
- Mandate health care coverage for everyone, either through an individual or a government mandate. I don't know Snyder personally, but he may have thought that he was perfectly fine without coverage. But health care is necessary for people like that because it's for those situations that we don't foresee.
Also, I doubt Snyder's bill would have been $400K for two months of care in a perfect world where health care coverage is the norm. Hospitals take care of many patients who can't pay their bills, and they make up for it by raising the price on everyone else who can pay. Mandated health coverage would make those people be covered from the start, reducing costs all around:
To answer this question you need to make a detailed analysis of health care decisions. That's what Jonathan Gruber of M.I.T., one of America's leading health care economists, does in a new paper.
Mr. Gruber finds that a plan without mandates, broadly resembling the Obama plan, would cover 23 million of those currently uninsured, at a taxpayer cost of $102 billion per year. An otherwise identical plan with mandates would cover 45 million of the uninsured -- essentially everyone -- at a taxpayer cost of $124 billion. Over all, the Obama-type plan would cost $4,400 per newly insured person, the Clinton-type plan only $2,700.
- Pass legislation to ban insurers from denying coverage. Maybe Snyder actually did want health care coverage, and he wanted it badly. Maybe he was denied coverage because of his pre-existing condition. Often the problem for people with pre-existing conditions isn't that they can't afford insurance, but that they're completely denied coverage altogether.
This is where the Paul/McCain plans to individualize the tax credit especially fall through: if an insurance company already knows that a person is going to be more of a burden than their premiums will cover, then they're not going to take that person on. At least with a large group, like Medicare, Medicaid, or large employers' health coverage, people's risks and costs are balanced out with many other, healthy people. In other words, they're able to participate the entire point of health insurance: everyone pays in so that no one person's medical expenses are a huge burden on that person.
While no one's advocating it now, a single-payer system would solve all of these problems, especially for people with stingy employers like Kent Snyder's.
As a side note, boo to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, both of whom didn't mention Snyder's sexuality in their articles on him.