The group Protect Your Care has put together a mini-site based on the incident in the Republican debate on Monday, where tea party attendees cheered the prospect of allowing an uninsured man to die. The candidate being questioned during that exchange was Ron Paul. It turns out that he has a particular experience with the hypothetical question asked to him by Wolf Blitzer. In fact, his campaign manager from 2008 died from a lack of insurance.

Paul’s 2008 campaign manager, Kent Snyder, went through a strikingly similar experience to Blitzer’s hypothetical one, dying of complications from viral pneumonia just two weeks after Paul ended his presidential bid. Snyder was uninsured, so family and friends were forced to raise funds to cover his $400,000 in medical bills. Their efforts included setting up a website soliciting contributions from Paul supporters.

The episode reflects what Paul himself argued should be the free-market ideal for health insurance policy. During Monday night’s GOP primary debate, the libertarian Republican made the case that health insurance coverage was a choice. If one decided to forgo it, he ran the risk of mounting bills. If a patient was on his deathbed, it wasn’t the taxpayers’ responsibility to pick up that tab.

I suppose the fact that Paul supporters helped pay some of a $400,000 hospital bill – after the uninsured man in question died, but hey, bad timing – “proves” Paul’s claims that communities will step in with support when government cannot provide it.   [cont’d.] Needless to say, not everyone in America has the resources of an affiliation with a Presidential candidate who raised a lot of money online. As for the idea that charitable organizations could step in to provide funding for treatment, this hearkens back to a time before a social safety net, which conservatives like to characterize as some kind of Valhalla. In fact, it was brutally awful on those who didn’t win the social Darwinist battle of modern capitalism. Poverty rates among the elderly were astronomical. Death rates were elevated. Your ability to pay had a determinative effect on your life expectancy, to a far greater degree than today. The poorhouse was a terrible place to live out your remaining days. It was a miserable time to be without means in America, a time that caused needless suffering and death so rich people didn’t have to be bothered with paying a dime to avoid such a horror.

This is the backdrop for this Jon Huntsman staffer’s comments:

Sarah Reidy, the national director of scheduling for Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign, had some stern words for her own party after the audience at a debate in California applauded the number of executions during Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s tenure, and then some in the crowd at a debate in Florida cheered when the moderator asked if a sick person without insurance should be left to die.

In a post on her Facebook page, Reidy, who joined Huntsman’s campaign in August but was not speaking on its behalf in this instance, said the behavior made her “sick and sad” for the Republican party.

“For years I have tried to prove that the GOP isn’t the Party of elitist, stereotypical people that lack compassion,” Reidy wrote on her Facebook account Tuesday. “When did creativity and growth become secondary to hate? Hearing the debate crowds go crazy over things like executions and the uninsured dying makes me sick and sad for my Party that I devote my time and efforts.”

All I have to say to Miss Reidy is welcome to the modern GOP.

David Dayen

David Dayen