KRWG

Don’t let me bleed to death in the street

Nov 16, 2020

Credit Walt Rubel

Commentary: I was originally not going to include Libertarian candidate Bob Walsh in the U.S. Senate election interviews we conducted recently on community radio, but my co-host Peter Goodman argued that if Walsh was on the ballot he needed to be invited.

I’m glad he did, as Walsh provided my favorite moment of all the campaign interviews this year.

I asked him about the government’s role in health care, and put it in the most basic terms I could think of.

“I have no money. I have no insurance. I get in a car crash. What should happen?”

“Well, you’re going to be broke,” he said.

I’m already broke. “My question is, should they send an ambulance and take me to the hospital or should they let me bleed to death in the streets?”

After a long pause, he replied, “For one thing, you’ve been totally irresponsible for not having money and not having insurance.”

There was no second thing. That was it. Maybe some good-hearted person will stop and help. Maybe not. I suspect the government would at least be allowed to drag me to the side of the road, so as to avoid a traffic hazard.

Of all the answers given by all the candidates this year in both the primary and general elections, that one might have been the most honest. Walsh could afford to be honest, given the impossibility of his potential victory.

Republicans can’t afford to be that honest. And, to be clear, I don’t believe they share Walsh’s view that emergency services should be reserved for those who can afford them. But on the issue of health care, they don’t have a better answer than he does.

For the past 10 years, the GOP has been united in its opposition to the Affordable Care Act, but divided on what should replace it. That’s why former Sen. John McCain famously turned his thumb down on the final attempt by Congress to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. He knew, just like we all knew, that there was no replacement.

President Trump had been promising a new health care plan that he would unveil after the election, but I suppose that’s off now.

Yet Republican attorneys were in the Supreme Court earlier this month, arguing once again that the nation’s healthcare program should be declared unconstitutional.

Chief Justice John Roberts correctly noted they are asking the court to do what they could not do in Congress. Based on the oral arguments, it appears that Republicans seeking to overturn our healthcare system without a replacement will once again be saved from themselves. Or, more accurately, we will all be saved from them.

For now. 

The ACA was passed with no Republican votes. That’s been a bitter pill that still hasn’t been swallowed. They will keep chipping at it and fighting against it forever.

It’s time for something new, using many of the principles of the ACA. Even Republicans now agree that those with pre-existing conditions should not be charged more for their health insurance, Their problem is how to pay for it.

That’s always been their problem. How does the free-market system provide basic human services for those without money?

I don’t have the answer to that question. But I’m certain that the next healthcare plan that gets passed will be more inclusive, providing more services to more people, than the one that is in place now. And that’s a good thing.

Republican leaders need to understand that’s the goal, and figure out how they can contribute to getting there.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com