Hey, That's My Line! (Updated Reader Quiz)

by Jonathan Cohn | October 25, 2011

Reader quiz! Guess which pundit just said the following:

There are moral, public health and economic reasons not to have the sick and injured go untreated.

Hint: It's not Paul Krugman or Keith Olbermann.

The answer is...

 Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger.*

Just to be clear about the context, she wasn’t trying to make the point that Krugman or Olbermann (or I) would with a statement like that. In other words, this wasn't part of an argument for universal health insurance. Rather, it was part of a commentary about the latest controversy over Matt Romney and health care in Massachusetts.

As you may have heard, Rick Perry has been attacking Romney because the Massachsuetts health care universal health care plan, which Romney famously enacted, finances care for undocumented immigrants. Rubin thinks the charge is unfair. I am pretty sure Rubin is correct.

It seems that Texas, under Perry, also pays to treat undocumented immigrants in various contexts. Citing material that the Romney campaign has been circulating, Rubin notes that Texas sometimes finances care to undocumented workers in non-emergency situations – and that it offers pre-natal care to undocumenteds with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. All of that is in addition to emergency care that publicly subsidized clinics and/or hospitals provide, in accordance with federal law.

And this is the right thing to do, Rubin says. A bit after making the statement I quoted above, she adds this:

Should hospitals and doctors insist the sick, pregnant and injured provide citizenship papers before getting treatment? Obviously, he doesn’t believe that. His state wouldn’t tolerate that.

Exactly! And you know what? You could substitute "insurance papers" for "citizenship papers" and the statement would be just as true. At least in principle, (almost) nobody wants to deprive people of care they truly need because those people can't pay for it. 

But wait a minute. If you think there are “moral, public health, and economic reasons not to have the sick and injured go untreated" – and if even an extremely conservative state like Texas “wouldn’t tolerate” demanding citizenship papers before providing health care – then haven’t you made the argument for guaranteeing health care for all? 

I am not trying to pick on Rubin here. Misstatement is an occupational hazard of blogging. (I could could attest to that personally!) 

But I’m genuinely curious. Is Rubin really ready to concede that everybody should get medical treatment when they need it? Are other conservative writers and thinkers? What about the Republicans running for president?

Most important, if they agree on that goal -- and if they think the Affordable Care Act is a lousy way to accomplish it -- what are their credible alternatives? Unless I've missed something, they don't have any.

*Kudos to reader "blackton," who guessed the answer after my original post, which included only the quote.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-cohn/96645/reader-quiz