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Ron Paul: It's Not Government's Job To Take Care Of Uninsured

One question at last night's Republican presidential debate has the Internet abuzz. Not really for what Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said but for the reaction of a few people in the Tea Party crowd.

This was the question from CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

"A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

"Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?"

The question was directed to Paul, who is a physician. The exchange continued like this:

PAUL: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced —

BLITZER: But he doesn't have that. He doesn't have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

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 —

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

A few in the crowd hollered and at least a couple screamed, "Yeah."

Paul responded, "No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals."

We've pulled full audio of the exchange:

Paul fleshed out his response on Twitter by saying, "The individual, private charity, families, and faith based orgs should take care of people, not the government."

The Huffington Post talked to former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) who pounced on the crowd reaction.

"What you saw tonight is something much more sinister than not having a healthcare plan. It's sadism, pure and simple. It's the same impulse that led people in the Coliseum to cheer when the lions ate the Christians," he told the site.

The blogger Andrew Sullivan called the moment "indecent." But his tact was a bit more balanced. He said "the honesty is refreshing," but cheering the death of a "feckless twenty-something" is not something "a decent person cheers." Sullivan added:

In my personal life, I have found it morally impossible not to want to help someone stricken with illness, in whatever way I can. I'm sure my own health struggles have impacted this view, as my experience alongside a generation in a health crisis. Do I think we should have done nothing while hundreds of thousands died of AIDS? Of course not. Ditto cancer and all the ailments that flesh is heir to. America, moreover, has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to treat and try to save a human being who walks into an emergency room. So we have already made that collective decision and if the GOP wants to revisit it, they can.

Note at 4:12 p.m. ET: Grayson is a former representative. Earlier, we referred to him as a current representative. His term ended this January. He recently told Politico he will run for Congress again.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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