Dumb quote of the day: buy now, pay later edition

>> Thursday, October 11, 2012

We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, "Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack."

No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.

- Mitt Romney, as quoted by Joe Vardon, Darrel Rowland and Joe Hallett
"Romney in Central Ohio | Health care called 'choice'"
The Columbus Dispatch, Thursday October 11th, 2012.

I feel a certain amount of conflict. Is a dumb quote really a dumb quote if it's actually a disingenuous line? Because I suspect Mitt Romney knows he's full of shit on this, actually.

What makes the quote dishonest and dumb, of course, isn't merely the fact that people do, in point of fact, die because they don't get healthcare because they can't afford it. What makes it really dishonest and dumb is that "and it's paid for" crap and what's buried beneath it. It's "paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital". Yes, and one of those involves paying for someone else's heathcare with my taxes, which is the kind of thing Romney, his party and his supporters are ostensibly opposed to; and another one of those involves raising my healthcare costs, which is inefficient and a drag on the economy.

As for charity, nobody has a problem with that, but if it were sufficient, I don't believe we would be having this whole damn screaming match in the first place.

Ultimately, what's happening is that hospitals, legally forbidden to turn away emergency patients, are passing the unrecoverable costs of treating them on to other healthcare consumers. It's just that simple. In many cases, these emergency patients frankly don't have actual emergencies or they have avoidable emergencies: that is, they're going to emergency rooms for routine care, or for once-simple health problems that have devolved into a crisis state because they couldn't afford to go to a doctor before they were coughing up blood. The hospitals can--and do--send the unpaid bills to collection agencies, but you really can't (as the old saying goes) get blood from a turnip and so all you get out of that is someone's credit rating gets destroyed and/or the courthouse gets bogged down in even more paperwork as agencies file and attempt to collect on civil judgements, spreading the costs out further and further.

To me, personally, the ideal solution is for the government to collect an insurance premium from every single taxpayer, spreading the costs of healthcare across a vast pool; i.e., single-payer, socialized medicine. So I'm opposed to Obamacare in that sense. But I'm not a total moron: I realize that was a political long-shot, if not an utter impossibility, and that creating a mandated insurance program, once the preferred choice of doctrinaire conservatives until a Democrat threw the concept back at them (whereupon Hell broke loose), was a sounder political option. It's certainly something that seems to have been good enough for Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, anyway.

What makes no sense whatsoever, though, is to keep the failing system we had.

"Obamacare" used to be "Romneycare", which is why I suspect Romney knows perfectly well how hospital bills are really covered for the uninsured. He's using this line because he thinks his audience is stupid, and I worry that he may be right, and that today's dumb quote is dumb not on the speaker's part, but on the intended audience's part. And that's upsetting, frankly. Anyone with an iota of common sense can figure out that two of the three ways Romney suggests healthcare is already covered involve raising taxes (or providing insufficient coverage) or raising costs (or hospitals closing or somehow rescinding services). And they might be justly suspicious of the odd-option-out's sufficiency--if charity were offering comprehensive coverage, why are government and hospitals having to swallow or spread the costs at all?

But anyone who wonders how Romney's cynical (or stupid) ploy could possibly work is probably forgetting that H.L. Mencken once proffered what could be the smart quote of the day for today, yesterday and all days to come:

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

No, no, they didn't. I don't think they ever lost an election that way, either.

An unrelated postscript: one hates to complain about an essentially free service--you get what you pay for--but the new Blogger composer is an utter nightmare. Fifteen minutes were spent merely trying to get the blockquote at the beginning of this post to format correctly, something that was previously effortless. I'm going to have to seriously consider whether I want to start paying for hosting and whether I want to go to the trouble of migrating Giant Midgets somewhere, and all because a service I've used without significant trouble for five years has abruptly gone and made their behind-the-scenes interface... well, whatever it is they tried to turn it into. It's really, really terrible. Counterintuitive, inefficient, difficult to navigate and prone to misbehavior. Really terrible.


Steve Buchheit Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 1:56:00 PM EDT  

Not to mention that the cost of serving people in hospitals is THE EXACT COST ITEM that spurred Romneycare. Romney's advisers showed him how much the cost of uncorvered medical care was exploding state coffers. To to advert that problem and reduce the costs, he pushed Romneycare, against his own party's advice. Because it makes government, business, and budgetary sense.

As I said in my link post today, I'm starting to think this is a push to avert attention from his 47% quote. This one has lower stakes (he feels). So admitting he was wrong here is much less damaging.

TimBo Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 2:43:00 PM EDT  

I read an essay a couple of months ago written by an American who had emigrated to Canada. It reminded me of a lot of things that I take for granted as a Canadian.
- Prenatal checkups. No one in Canada would consider foregoing prenatal checkups upon discovering they were pregnant. Apparently in the US there are trade offs and people don't always get them done. One of my grandsons had a deadly congenital defect discovered during a prenatal checkup. The[free!] surgery the day he was born saved his life.
- No medical bill collectors. Get hit by an uninsured driver? Your hospital bills are covered. Get cancer? Covered. End of life care? Covered, your children don't have to go in debt to keep you comfortable until the end.
- No Death Panels! There was an article in the local paper a few months ago because the neo-natal unit of the University was planning to pull the plug on a brain dead baby. They had consulted the parents, specialist, pretty much everybody agreed it was the thing to do. They were hesitating because of the emotional trauma this would cause on the nurses in the unit. So much for death panels.
- Inheritance. Most Canadians will receive an inheritance when their parents die. Even lower-middle income families. I was surprised to learn that Americans mostly don't. I even unexpectedly got a bit from my mother who lived in a nursing home for the last fifteen years of her life.

And maternity leave for either/both parents. Free medical checkups. Reduced drug prices. On and on the list goes.

All these things somehow add up to Canadians living longer than Americans. I don't think it's the -40 temperatures that add to our life expectancy. I think it's universally available health care.

Leanright,  Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 3:52:00 PM EDT  

TimBo...I'm in no position to argue the merits of Canadian healthcare; you've got first hand exposure, but I found this link. What are your thoughts?


Eric Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:06:00 PM EDT  

I strongly recommend readers take a look at this piece from Rachael Acks concerning who dies in their apartments--or their trailers.

She hits on something that's a crucial and easily overlooked flaw in Romney's gem of bullshittery: that it isn't necessarily the hospitals who are telling people, "Tough luck, you're going to die when you have your heart attack." In a lot of cases, it's assuredly the sick who are saying, "Tough luck, I'm going to die when I have what's probably a heart attack because I can't afford to get it looked at right now." Of course, I imagine Romney might look at that as a matter of personal choice; doubtlessly so, but I look at it as a choice no one should ever have to make. Refuse medical care because of your faith and or because you're a dumb and stubborn cuss, fine, but it should never be "optional" because you think you're going to leave your loved ones in debt, or because it's a choice between keeping your home and keeping your life, or because a funeral is more than 1100% cheaper than bypass surgery.

TimBo Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:16:00 PM EDT  

Leanright: Great link. I hope you noticed the status, "Multiple" problems and read the Snopes "Origins" section below. The Origins section shows a pretty realistic picture, the original e-mail is pretty much crap.

Here in Alberta my basic health care is free of premiums. I pay about $1,400/year for drug coverage (for two people, and I'm old and require lots of drugs to keep moving). My tax rate, including the cost on my accountant, is about 13% of my gross income.

Dr. Phil (Physics) Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:40:00 PM EDT  

"We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance."

Tell that to my sister, who without insurance couldn't get properly diagnosed.

Oh wait -- you can't.

She's dead.


Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil (Physics) Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:41:00 PM EDT  

And yes, she died in her apartment, thinking it was asthma and not cancer.

Dr. Phil

Eric Friday, October 12, 2012 at 1:39:00 PM EDT  

I don't usually close threads, but Dr. Phil deserves the last word on this one.

Wendy was a good woman, and she's very much missed.

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