During last Monday’s Republican presidential debate, the moderator asked Ron Paul if a man who didn’t have insurance slipped into a coma, should “society just let him die?” While Paul struggled to answer the question, several people in the audience can be heard cheering in favor of the moderator’s suggestion.
Just a few short hours later, it became clear just how personal that question was to Paul. The Huffington Post reported on Tuesday that in 2008, Paul’s campaign manager, who didn’t have insurance, slipped into a coma, leaving family and friends to scramble to pull together the $400,000 for his medical bills. They even set up a website to solicit donations from Paul’s political supporters.
Unfortunately, scenarios like this aren’t that uncommon in the United States. When people go without insurance, whether it’s because they lost their job or simply can’t afford insurance in the private market, they’re forced to pay astronomical health care bills when they end up needing medical attention. Without insurance to help defray the cost, many people go bankrupt because of medical bills. In fact, a recent study found that they were a factor in 23 percent of home foreclosures.
Furthermore, when people can’t pay their health care bills, hospitals pass the uncompensated costs onto insurers, who pass those costs onto the consumers, resulting in higher premiums for those who are insured.
For most, $400,000 is a lot of money. And while it may not be impossible to raise, it’s unlikely that the average American would be able to raise that much money from family, friends, or neighbors—especially during tough economic times like these. That’s why it’s so important that health insurance is affordable for every American, and the Affordable Care Act takes steps to do exactly that.