Should We Let People Die If Unrelated Government Policies Tend To Drive Up The Costs Of Health Care?

One of the more interesting questions in the most recent GOP debate came when Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what thought about a scenario in which a health 30-year-old man with a decent job decides to go without health insurance and then is hit by a terrible misfortune and finds himself in need of medical attention: “Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?”

The audience, because they’re moral monsters, screamed out that we should let the man die. Paul, because he has a modicum of decency, basically hemmed and hawed and looked like he didn’t have a persuasive response. Roderick Long, however, thinks that the savvy libertarian way to answer the question is to totally avoid confronting it:

The right way to answer a question like Blitzer’s is to proceed in precisely the opposite order. Start by asking what causes people like the hypothetical patient to be in the plight they’re in. In other words, lead with stage three. Why didn’t the patient buy insurance? Because the price was too high. Why is it so high? Talk about the specific ways in which corporatist policies drive up medical costs (and disempower the poor in other ways too).

This is nonsense. The government has a lot of policies. Many of them are bad ones. Many of those policies increase the price of this or that. Then over and above that, situations occur that require responses. For example, an uninsured person may be struck by some terrible misfortune and require medical attention. At which point we can let him die, or we can pay for his treatment. The question at hand is which should we do. Once we concede that in practice we’ll pay for his treatment, we now have a strong prima facie case for some kind of mandatory minimum level of health insurance coverage which is where Blitzer was leading. It’s all well and good to say that there are some other changes we could (and quite possibly should) make, but leading with that answer just shows how weak the anti-mandate case really is.