By Francis Wilkinson
At this week's CNN/Tea Party presidential debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Texas Representative Ron Paul how he would handle the case of an uninsured man who ends up comatose at a hospital. “Would you let him die?” Blitzer asked Paul, a 76-year-old physician whose libertarian impulses sometimes propel him to politically awkward places. Before Paul could respond (in the negative, as it happens), a voice in the crowd shouted, “Yeah!” eliciting scattered, seemingly minimal, applause.
Extrapolating from this week's Bloomberg News poll, the "let him die" contingent appears to be a small one. After all the economic struggles of the past decade and the continuing frights of the past three years, American voters remain committed to providing health care to the poor through Medicaid. In fact, 76 percent say they oppose reducing the deficit by cutting Medicaid. To put that in context, a far lower number -- 57 percent -- opposes reducing the deficit by replacing Medicare for those 65 and over with a system of government vouchers (aka the "Ryan Plan"). Even 60 percent of Republican voters are opposed to cutting Medicaid.
In Blitzer's hypothetical, the comatose man was not poor -- just willfully uninsured. Many Americans may view such a situation with ambivalence. For now, however, support for government-financed health care for the poor remains robust. For all the talk of gruesome entitlement cuts on the near horizon, Medicaid is looking sprightly and well -- today.
The poll of 997 adults was conducted Sept. 9-12 by Selzer & Co., based in Des Moines, Iowa, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)
-0- Sep/14/2011 20:56 GMT