Alex Blaze

Gay Ron Paul staffer dies of pneumonia without health coverage, leaves $400K debt

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 16, 2008 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: health care reform, health insurance reform, Kent Snyder, LGBT, mandate, Ron Paul, single-payer health care, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

Kent Snyder, Ron Paul's campaign chair, died of pneumonia a couple of weeks ago after two months in the hospital. He was openly gay.

Here's what Paul had to say about Snyder:

Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for Freedom. He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family... Without Kent Snyder, the fight for liberty would not be where it is today. We all owe him a great debt.

Snyder wasn't provided health care with his job in the campaign, even though Ron Paul raised over $35M and the Clinton, Edwards, Obama, and McCain campaigns all provided health care to their staffers. Surely there would have been enough money in there to provide basic coverage to at least his senior staff?

I'm not saying that health care coverage could have saved Snyder's life. He got medical attention in the end - two months in the hospital - and he's leaving behind $400K in debt.

One of the arguments that small-government conservatives usually make against universal health care is that people get treatment currently, so universal care isn't needed. But that's missing the point. Who's going to pay for Snyder's bill now that he's dead?

I'm sure that part of it was already paid with the money he had when he was alive (who knows how big that bill was originally). Some will be absorbed by the hospital, with costs to be passed on to other people who use that hospital in the form of higher fees all around. Some will be absorbed through various government funds, with the bill to be paid by the tax payer. And some will go on to Snyder's family (remember how health care costs are the number one reason for bankruptcy in the US? It's situations like these....)

In other words, the biggest reason why libertarian Republicans oppose universal health care - it'll cost money - is basically already happening right now. And considering that the US currently pays a bit under double per person what Switzerland does (and they pay more than anyone other than us for their universal health care), it just goes to show that we can't afford to continue with our non-system.

Ron Paul is asking his supporters to help pay off the $400K. It's kind of him, but that sort of begging doesn't work for everyone. It only works for the public and the highly connected, people who know people like Ron Paul, not the average American.

Ron Paul's solution for health care woes right now is to individualize the tax credit that businesses get to provide health care, meaning that people won't be able to pool together for coverage. People with pre-existing conditions, like Kent Snyder who had a "chronic blood disorder," would have a near impossible time getting coverage under Paul's plan.

This story, while tragic, shows that we need to enact the following reforms to our health care system:

  1. Decouple employment and health care. People in non-traditional and temporary jobs like Snyder don't often get health care coverage, even though they need it just as much as everyone else. And even if it's an industry standard to provide health care (like it pretty much is now in major presidential campaigns), some employers will still refuse to, and will use someone's commitment to the cause to keep them in a job with no health care. There's no reason to keep employment and health care together - it doesn't encourage anyone to work, it just denies people coverage.

  2. Decouple marriage and health care. If he weren't gay, Snyder may have been able to find a wife who could cover him through her job. But he was, and whether he was in a relationship or not, he could not get coverage through his partner. Much like employment, it makes no sense to link marital status and health care coverage.

    TBP contributor Nancy Polikoff writes on the subject of marriage and coverage in her book Beyond (Gay and Straight) Marriage :

    Employers adjusting benefits to today's demographics should cover these families. Marriage should not be required. A person with an unmarried partner of either sex is twice as likely as a married person to lack health insurance. For married couples, coverage as a dependent is almost as important a predictor of having health insurance as coverage through one's own full-time job. Thirty-sex percent of married people are insured through a spouse's employer-based coverage; less than 5 percent of those with unmarried partners have such coverage.

  3. Mandate health care coverage for everyone, either through an individual or a government mandate. I don't know Snyder personally, but he may have thought that he was perfectly fine without coverage. But health care is necessary for people like that because it's for those situations that we don't foresee.

    Also, I doubt Snyder's bill would have been $400K for two months of care in a perfect world where health care coverage is the norm. Hospitals take care of many patients who can't pay their bills, and they make up for it by raising the price on everyone else who can pay. Mandated health coverage would make those people be covered from the start, reducing costs all around:

    To answer this question you need to make a detailed analysis of health care decisions. That's what Jonathan Gruber of M.I.T., one of America's leading health care economists, does in a new paper.

    Mr. Gruber finds that a plan without mandates, broadly resembling the Obama plan, would cover 23 million of those currently uninsured, at a taxpayer cost of $102 billion per year. An otherwise identical plan with mandates would cover 45 million of the uninsured -- essentially everyone -- at a taxpayer cost of $124 billion. Over all, the Obama-type plan would cost $4,400 per newly insured person, the Clinton-type plan only $2,700.

  4. Pass legislation to ban insurers from denying coverage. Maybe Snyder actually did want health care coverage, and he wanted it badly. Maybe he was denied coverage because of his pre-existing condition. Often the problem for people with pre-existing conditions isn't that they can't afford insurance, but that they're completely denied coverage altogether.

    This is where the Paul/McCain plans to individualize the tax credit especially fall through: if an insurance company already knows that a person is going to be more of a burden than their premiums will cover, then they're not going to take that person on. At least with a large group, like Medicare, Medicaid, or large employers' health coverage, people's risks and costs are balanced out with many other, healthy people. In other words, they're able to participate the entire point of health insurance: everyone pays in so that no one person's medical expenses are a huge burden on that person.

While no one's advocating it now, a single-payer system would solve all of these problems, especially for people with stingy employers like Kent Snyder's.


As a side note, boo to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, both of whom didn't mention Snyder's sexuality in their articles on him.

Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Actualy single payer is not the way to go as this places all the burden on the goverenment.A triple pay system in my opion for folks who are working would be best let the single pay be for the retired and unemployed.

With tripple pay you pay your employer pays and the government pays.We could expand Medicare to cover all of the governments share.We would then have no need to create a new agency to handle this.Creating a new health care plan is what killed President Clintons plan.Using what we have now but expanding it would ease that burden this could work even if we went to a single payer plan but I see problems galore with a single payer plan.

Another way to solve part of the problem would to make all health care workers part of the USPHS and they would pay them there salaries and that realy is the major cost Doctors and others fees.The actual cost would then go down per treatment.

He was NOT 'openly gay' or gay at all, so those of you who keep saying this could be the subject of a lawsuit if you keep this up.

NH~ Quite a few people talked to the Blade about Snyder's sexuality, and it wasn't in the "He was so ashamed of who he was" way, but in the "Was he even in the closet?" way.

Did you know him personally?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 17, 2008 9:56 AM

The solution is socialized medicine, paid for by taxing the rich and corporate profit. The money they make is stolen from working people, it time we took it back. Socialized medicine incorporates some of the ideas you mentioned but it’s distinguished from liberal plans by its promise to provide quality service to everyone and to pay for it by confiscatory taxes on the wealth of unproductive social parasites like business leaders, the Pentagon's killer bureaucrats and the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties.

'Things are in the saddle. And Ride Mankind." Ralph Waldo Emerson - 1847

Why would you limit health coverage to senior staff? Considering the amount of social damage caused by 'senior staff' in the business world, politics and the military, shouldn't they be on the bottom of the list?

"Whenever there is a conflict between human rights and property rights human rights must prevail." Abraham Lincoln

Uh, yeah, NH. Catch up on your facts. Ron Paul himself and the former communications chair have all stated publicly now that Snyder was gay and didn't hide it. I think it's important to mention though that being gay had nothing to do with his health issues.

While Alex put "blood disorder" in quote marks - apparently in an attempt to signify HIV - everyone who knew him said that wasn't the case. He had a blood disorder - just like thousands of other Americans. I think is dangerously close to the right wing meme of "Gay = AIDS."

It's also important to point out that it was Snyder himself who decided the campaign staffers wouldn't get health insurance benefits. At the beginning of the campaign, no one expected Paul to raise any money or last longer than a couple months.

Actually, I put "chronic blood disorder" in quotation marks because I was quoting (you know, sometimes people use quotation marks to quote. It's pretty rare these days). It was a direct quotation from the NY Blade. If I were attempting to signify AIDS, I would have done just that, said that I thought he was poz. It was actually an attempt to show that he had a pre-existing condition, which is an important aspect of health care policy.

And whether he decided to get coverage or not is besides the point (the campaign raised $35M) - even libertarians deserve health care.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 17, 2008 12:03 PM

"Socialized medicine" in order to work correctly is paid for by all taxpayers in substantial dollars. The axiom of "soaking the rich" and "those greedy corporations" overlooks the fact that if you want employment at all you need corporations. You can have the strongest unions in the world, like Britain, and have no jobs for the union members. The Canadian model works well, and would work for the United States equally well, when we cease having to be a military power which cannot come soon enough.

The greatest terrorist weapon of them all is disease.

In April, the series Frontline on PBS broadcasted Sick Around The World which highlighted how health is delivered in five industrialized democracies --- the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland. Each of these countries has a form of "single payer system" although each is unique in the way the system details are designed and implemented, and thus, some work better than others --- proving once again that, as the old saying goes, "The devil is in the details."

But the show helped to convince me that universal health care is both possible and appropriate for the United States --- despite the Libertarians and despite the Republicans.

Narrated by veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent T.R. Reid, the show is available online if you have broadband Internet; click the link above, then click "Watch Online" in the menu bar at top of page.

I thought that Michael Moore's film "Sicko" did an excellent job of raising this very issue. However, he wasn't talking about the millions of Americans (like myself) so have no insurance. He was talking about the Americans who do have insurance and are still denied coverage. The system is broken. I think Hillary was the best choice to fix that. But I'm gonna stop crying of that cookie, because it's crumbled.