Ron Paul’s Answer–Unlicensed Doctors for Uninsured Patients


Neuroscience the Old Fashioned Way

AmericaBlog has video and a transcript of Rep. Ron Paul during the Republican presidential debates, as he answers Wolf Blitzer’s hypothetical question about a 30 year old man who opted out of health insurance and now lies in a coma with a dire but treatable disease. Should we save him?

Paul >> That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody —

Audience >> [applause]

Blitzer >> but congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

Audience >> [shouts of “yeah!”]

Even Paul’s rival, Gov.Rick Perry, was ‘taken aback’ by the ugly mood of the crowd.

This may sound like ‘nut picking’– taking the most extreme statements out of context, but I will swear on a stack of collected Ralph Waldo Emerson that I heard the same kind of things said, shouted, and offered to me as argument at the health reform Town Halls here in Rhode Island.

[Here was a snarky example of a group of firefighters who let a house burn for lack of fees. Xavier Onassis, EMT-P, took issue with the story as reported by USA Today. He says the story was mis-represented in the press, and that dedicated volunteer firefighters had been working unfunded and without adequate support. He has an informed comment here with a link to a more complete story. I apologize here for giving legs to a story that reflected badly on people whose mission is to save lives.]

Rep. Paul did go on to say that no one would be left to die in his hospital, and he invoked the old-fashioned neighborly spirit where churches and benevolent groups would come together to save the guy in the coma (more on that following). Then he said something that the blogosphere has not picked up, though it’s one of Paul’s most radical statements yet…

We have lack of competition. There’s no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. We should legalize alternative health care. Allow people to practice what they want.

“Everybody is protected by licensing.” This is a problem? Not de-regulated enough? “Legalize alternative health care.” What is he talking about? Alternative health care is thriving, and often reimbursable by medical insurance. But do we really want to just guess, when picking a doctor, whether they passed their boards, and whether their medical school was accredited? Ron Paul’s son, Rand Paul, is not board-certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, but rather by an association that he founded and directs. That’s one way to do it. Do we crave the freedom to take our own risks with loosely-regulated doctors who can create their own credentials? Do we want an old-time doctor like R.V.Pierce?

R.V.Pierce,MD, was a good businessman. His hospital covered an entire city block in Buffalo, New York at the turn of the last century. He peddled a pre-FDA concoction called the ‘Golden Medical Discovery’. It made people feel better, allegedly because it was fortified with alcohol and opium. Dr.Pierce’s book, ‘The People’s CommonSense Medical Advisor’ contains scores of testimonials to miracle cures effected by just a few bottles. To the skeptical nurse, these stories are a window into the suffering endured by our great-grandparents, whose lives might be ruined by accidents or conditions now easily treated. Interestingly, R.V.Pierce served in Congress on the Republican ticket.

Back to Rep. Paul’s recommendation that we look to churches and neighborhood yard sales to care for our neighbors in need– check out Providence Journal reporter, Felice Freyer’s article ‘The Price of Miracles’. Neighbors do help, but the care of a baby in intensive care costs thousands of dollars a day, and then thousands of dollars a month after they go home. This is where collective responsibility comes in, and where we uphold our values as a great nation.

Back to Wolf Blitzer’s hypothetical. The life of a 30-year-old man has value. More than $800,000 according to one calculation. And the community that decided a cloud of air pollution and a smoking ruin was better than an intact house– well, just a little shortsighted. At least the firefighters woke up when they saw the neighboring roofs catching sparks.

And if you’re old enough to shudder at the mention of the drug, Thalidomide, then thank Frances Kelsey. As a pharmacologist at the FDA she kept that drug from being widely prescribed in the US. Regulation is good in its place, and what you don’t know can hurt you. Ron Paul’s nostalgia for unlicensed doctors for uninsured patients is not shared by most Americans. Most Americans want some assurance that there are standards, and recourse if they are not treated right.

The suggestion that we would all be better off if it were not for those tiresome standards and licensing requirements is easily refuted if we look back a few generations– and see why these standards were put in place.

The statement that we should just let uninsured people die if charity doesn’t intervene won’t seem so smart when it’s someone you know or care about whose life is in danger. And that would happen sooner rather than later if we lived in Ron Paul’s America.

We are not yet a nation that demands a credit card number before responding to 911, but yes, people are dying for lack of affordable care. It’s years of health and life lost to preventable disease and is a national heartbreak and disgrace.

I actually share Rep.Paul’s frustration with the current system– overtreating here, undertreating there, pill-pushing and flawed. But I wouldn’t throw it away in favor of a Wild West where sick people have no protection from quacks, where we pride ourselves on being strong enough to deny care to people who made ‘bad choices’ not to buy insurance. Especially as uninsured people are often young adults, and often can’t afford insurance.

Like many middle-class parents of young adults, I am benefiting from the health care reform that allows family insurance up to age 26. I want to see this as a beginning of more comprehensive reform that covers everyone. You may say I’m idealistic, but universal health care is more reality-based than a nostalgic vision of an America that never was.

MORE: Mark Karlin on Buzzflash says that a campaign manager for Ron Paul died young, uninsured and in debt. Would it be in accordance with Libertarian principles to provide health insurance for employees? The Huffington Post also has a comment on this sad story. Pneumonia can be fatal, but it is a disease that has a high rate of recovery if treated early. When people hesitate to go to the doctor for lack of insurance there are some whose luck runs out– this especially applies to the young and healthy.

14 thoughts on “Ron Paul’s Answer–Unlicensed Doctors for Uninsured Patients

  1. My cousin Susan had breast cancer and no medical insurance and I guess she didn’t want a mastectomy so she got “alternative”therapy and she died kind of rapidly.
    I used alternative,non-drug therapy for tendonitis twice and it worked pretty well,but it wasn’t cancer and it wasn’t expensive.
    It beat the hell out of taking prednisone -based meds.
    People using ER’s for routine or only mildly urgent problems creates a huge problem.
    Of the last six times I was in the ER,I was admitted to ICU three times and a regular ward once.
    The other two times I was treated and released and in one of those cases the triage nurse sent me to the ER against my wishes.
    It’s not much fun to wait for things to move along when you have people being treated for drunkeness and people “drug shopping”-there should really be a separate area for that type of nonsense.

    1. Joe, I want to say I’m sorry about your cousin. There’s a program in RI for uninsured women, but it’s much better to have a primary doctor available, and use the alternative therapy as an addition to what conventional medicine can do.
      It’s a loss to all of society when a person dies to young when they might have been cured.

  2. I paid $100 when I panicked after my cat bit me and I went to Miriam ER. I could have gone to a walk-in for a $25 co-pay. Live and learn.
    I have good insurance, and I guess part of being well-insured is incentives to use the system right.
    I have since forgiven the cat.

    1. This is why I would never have a cat(plus my wife is allergic to them)becaue you always live in THEIR house.
      Your cat hopefully had rabies shots.

    1. We don’t use the ‘H’ word here, but my husband just pointed out that Ron Paul’s use of the phrase ‘freedom to take risks’ ignores the fact that some are advantaged and others are forced to live a risky existence. I don’t know anyone who ditched secure health insurance for the thrill of uncertainty, but I know many who just don’t have an extra $200/week to buy insurance.
      In my experience, poverty does not increase freedom, especially when basics like education, transportation and public safety are cut.

  3. Sir/Ma’am

    You and I are ideologically on the same page. As a paramedic and firefighter, I see and am disturbed about many of the same things as you, and for the same reasons. I am glad to see that you are shedding light on these issues, and I believe your voice is important.

    Please be advised I take issue in the strongest possible terms with this:

    “Remember that not long ago, a group of volunteer firefighters, hopped up on Tea, stood around and watched a neighbor’s house burn to the ground because he had failed to pay a fee. So people really do act on these ideas.”

    This is a gross mischaracterization of the events surrounding the Cranick structure fire in Obion County, TN.

    The mishandling of this incident in the media, and the destructiveness of its massive ripple effect, has had a lasting impact on me and other first responders all around the country. I think about this literally every day. I have lost sleep over it more than once. It does very bad things to my PTSD.

    Please note that I have never been to Obion County, couldn’t find it on a map, and don’t know anyone in the entire state of TN. I have, however, been through fire academy and paramedic school, run some unknown number of 911 calls, and therefore believe I have a professional’s understanding of this horrendous miscarriage of justice.

    Ideology had nothing to do with the lack of response. The core issue — and the one I would love to see progressives understand and fight — was LACK OF FUNDING DUE TO INADEQUATE TAXATION OF THE RICH.

    The Fulton City firefighters responded in the only appropriate manner in keeping with NFPA standards. I have linked to a fuller report re: same below, however, should you not be motivated to read the full article, please allow me to quote the salient part:

    “Obion County does not have a fire department.”

    Before I go any further, please re-read the above. OBION COUNTY DOES NOT HAVE A FIRE DEPARTMENT.

    “The eight municipalities within Obion County have individually owned and operated departments.

    They have been fighting county fires, without receiving county funding. ”

    The county mayor is quoted with this little unchallenged lie:

    “The county mayor, Benny McGuire, reiterated that… ‘The problem is, is some of the more remote areas of the county, is that – no matter what you’ve got, the house is still going to burn, because you’re 10 or 11 miles away. And no matter what fire department responds, you will not get any service,’ McGuire said.”

    Any firefighter can tell you there’s a very simple solution. Tax the nearest rich folks enough to put a fire station closer than 11 miles from nearest poor folks.

    After this incident one of the Cranicks went to the fire station intending to do violence against firefighters — who, again, responded in keeping with industry standard best practices. Mr. Cranick admitted to physically beating one of the firefighters, and from my understanding was never charged for same. I don’t believe he’s ever apologized, retracted his position, or made any attempt to undo the damage caused in the media on his behalf. If Mr. Cranick ever chokes on a chicken bone, he’d better hope I’m not the only person there. Same goes for Mr. McGuire, the actual villain in all this.

    In short, the Cranicks shot the messenger, and what went out through the media was that that messenger was a jerk anyway. I’m sorry to see that you, like many others, accepted this flawed message. I hate to see another important voice being duped into echoing the talking points of those who are the problem.

    Here is alternate reporting of the same issue, quoted above, from a source perhaps better informed than USA Today:,0,2139336.story

    Your “hopped up on tea” characterization is inappropriate and frankly libelous, and I take great personal offense at the statement. I respectfully request that you remove that paragraph from your post, or better yet contact me so that I may give you an informed analysis. While your choices in journalism are clearly your own to make, I would personally appreciate your consideration of the idea that a correction is very much called for here. It would be wonderful to have your support in fighting the correct problem.

    Again, I respectfully request an update, clarification, and/or correction in this matter.

    FF Xavier Onassis, EMT-P

    1. Xavier, thank you for stopping by our site. It’s really cool to have an opinion from someone who is on the front lines of health care.
      I apologize for using a news story to make a point without looking further, or considering how it would reflect on volunteer firefighters. The word, ‘volunteer’ should have tipped me off.
      I have removed that paragraph from my post, and will follow your link to learn more about this story. Thank you for sending it.

  4. Ninjanurse

    I appreciate your thoughtfulness and support.

    I blog extensively about these issues, because you, me, and everyone else in this country, can only work with the information we’re given — which is greatly filtered and skewed. This distortion is even worse when discussing stories that involve a citizen’s right to privacy vis a vis public safety, or HIPAA.

    In terms of the head pounding incorrectness of the reporting, please check out this link from The Young Turks — one of the top progressive commentary sites IMHO. People who don’t work inside the system simply don’t understand the mechanisms to form an opinion, yet they do, and then they put it out over the airwaves and it gets exponentially magnified.

    In this story, the citizens don’t understand how mandatory reporting, what it’s for or how it works; that in real life nurses have much more familiarity with the intimacies of patient care than doctors do; that doctors sometimes don’t know as much about actual patient care as nurses do; what an AMA form is; that just because your child was OK there’s no way to assess the baby in question without repeat lab values, good lord I could go on and on. And if you scroll down in the comment section, when they first ran this botched abortion of a report, I did. I railed against the people who attacked that nurse for days, until I couldn’t take it anymore.

    And if you look at the comments, you’ll see that as soon as I vacated, the commentary went right back to blah blah uppity nurse yadda yadda “fire the bitch” ::pfft::.

    Head poundingly irritating. We the bloggers need to be the clue-sharers.

    Xavier Onassis

    1. yes, bloggers can give information that the news can’t fit into the narrative or into 30 seconds.
      I’m glad I’m in geriatrics, that must have been a really tough call for the nurse. Jaundice untreated can cause mental retardation, if it were me I would have agreed to keep my baby in the hospital for a day to make sure the jaundice was resolving.
      Our previous governor tried to cut prenatal and infant care for low-income women. One baby with jaundice undetected would have wiped out anything he would have saved.

      1. And our present “governor”elected by about a third of the voters cheated on his real estate and excise taxes and he’s RICH!!
        I am sure I didn’t cheat on those taxes and I bet you didn’t either.
        So who’s worse?The man who tried to pass some ill-considered legislation or the lying,sneaky rich boy?Great choice there.
        My younger grandaughter had jaundice-not much fun.

  5. The problem as I see it is that by the time the bloggers get to it, so much damage has been done by the flawed narrative that gets widespread attention, it’s like trying to drink the ocean with a spoon. I’d love it if there were an advisory panel that could help media personnel understand how to frame these conversations. Think how much easier it would be to advance the progressive agenda if the mouthpieces were working WITH us.

    In other news, I am going to answer your question about what went wrong in Obion County, but there’s a much more immediate problem at hand. The current problem can actually be rectified through citizen activism. If you’re so inclined, please check out the post I made today on my blog, and help spread the word. It’s particularly important in the Renton, Washington area, but really if everybody in the country kicks and screams that will be a good thing. The crooked little despot in question can be rousted on December 31 of this year if we act now.

    Xavier Onassis

Leave a Reply to Xavier Onassis, EMT-P Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s