Opposition to Expanded Access to Health Insurance Will Cause People to Die

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One time when I was in elementary school, I got sent home by a teacher who didn’t like the color my skin had taken on or the general heat radiating from my head. My late mother wasn’t the type to rush a kid to a doctor’s office over a fever, but she could tell that the situation was unusually bad. So we went in the next day, I got checked out, and it turned out I had scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is one of those illness that’s actually fairly cheap and easy to treat, which is why people rarely die from it these days. But in the past, it used to kill lots of people seem the infection is quite deadly. I obviously didn’t die. But suppose my family had had no health insurance? It’s possible that under those circumstances my parents would have made a different judgment about what kinds of fevers merited a trip to the pediatrician. And even if a disease is easy to treat, it’s still extremely deadly if nobody diagnoses it.

And in the United States, lots of people don’t have health insurance. Mostly that leads to medical bankruptcies or lingering problems going untreated until people turn 65 and get their socialized medicine. But it also leads to untreated diseases causing people to needless die. How many people? About 20,000 a year according to the Institute of Medicine:


It seems like this shouldn’t be a controversial point. Health care obviously saves lives. And health insurance facilitates access to health care, saving lives. So one major thing that legislation to increase the number of insured people does is save lives. It takes preventable deaths and turns them into prevented deaths. And one thing that people who are blocking health reform are doing is preventing congress from preventing tens of thousands of preventable deaths. The health care bill that Joe Lieberman is threatening to filibuster would, for example, have hundreds of billions in gross costs over 10 years, a modest amount of net deficit reduction, and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Ezra Klein made this observation early today, earning him a baffling response from Washington Post editor Charles Lane. Lane is basically pissing his pants at the prospect of pointing out that Lieberman’s actions have consequences, deploying hugely inappropriate and massively uncollegial language. He accuses Ezra of perpetrating a “vile smear” and of having lost his mind. But one thing Lane doesn’t do over the course of his 500 word post is point out any errors in Ezra’s item.

This coming from a guy who, as best I can tell, has never raised a peep of objection to George Will and Charles Krauthammer regularly using the pages of The Washington Post to mislead the audience about crucial matters of public policy.

As I said in my Daily Beast column on Alan Grayson, the stark moralistic language Rep Grayson uses makes people very uncomfortable. Lieberman’s people are squirming at the accusation that he bought his Medicare concessions by threatening to kill people. Lame Washington Post editors are squealing. There’s a reason: Stark moralistic language works.