Ron Paul told TPM on Wednesday that even if there’s a “case or two” that makes Americans uncomfortable, the government should stay out of the health care business. Even if one of the cases in question is his former campaign manager, Kent Snyder, who died with $400,000 in unpaid medical bills after being unable to secure health insurance due to a pre-existing condition.
At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Paul took questions from reporters on Snyder, whose story surfaced in the press after Paul said in the last Republican debate that the government should not intervene even to save a comatose 30 year old who did not have insurance. As Gawker noted, Snyder died in June 2008 without health insurance, leaving behind $400,000 in bills. His friends and family set up a fund to raise money to pay off the debt. It’s not clear how much money they were able to raise: a site set up by Ron Paul aide Justine Lam to track the medical fund stopped updating in 2008 with only $34,870 in donations.
“Well first off, people do get care, even under this terrible situation we have in medicine today,” Paul told reporters when asked about his former aide. “Kent, my campaign manager, wasn’t denied any care at all.”
According to Snyder’s friends, he was unable to obtain affordable health insurance — rendering moot Paul’s advice at the debate to find coverage in advance — because of a preexisting condition. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will no longer be able to reject customers on these grounds starting in 2013. I asked Paul whether Snyder’s inability to secure health insurance, even if he wanted it, put him in an impossible situation without government support. He suggested that states and counties could take action to help the sick, but put the emphasis on charity.
“Why do we suddenly lose confidence, that everyone is going to be thrown out into the street?” he said. “It just doesn’t happen and usually there are people that will help. But this idea you throw away the principles of liberty because you have a case or two where you go ‘Oh, I’m nervous about it’ - it just doesn’t justify doing your own thing.”
Paul blamed government interference and regulation designed to benefit insurance and pharmaceutical companies for shooting up medical prices for people like Kent, which he said explained why health care was no longer as affordable as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, when he said he charged $3 for an office visit.
“If you look at your cell phone or TV or computer the prices have crashed, they’re real low and we get higher quality,” he told reporters. “Except in medicine it has pushed prices up because there’s no market there, there’s no competition.”
He also blamed the government for regulating medicine: “The federal government comes in and closes down shops that try to sell nutritional medicine and vitamins because the drug companies don’t want competition. That drives the prices up.”
Paul added that “to twist it around and say that we have no compassion and we just throw people on the street, that to me is getting pretty ugly.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.