Health Insurance, Kickstarter Style

If you're a regular reader of conservative blogs, you may have gotten an appeal in the last few days to make a donation to help Caleb Howe, a contributor to the popular blog RedState.com. Howe, who is married with two children, is suffering from liver failure but has no health insurance to pay for his treatment. His page on GoFundMe has logged over $27,000 in donations (the original goal was $25,000), many of which came from those alerted to his situation in a post on DailyKos.com.

There are precious few Americans who, like the audience members at a Republican debate last year, would shout "Yes!" to the question of whether we should just let people die if they don't have insurance and can't pay for life-saving care. Unfortunately, most of the millions of Americans who lack insurance don't have friends with well-read blogs who can mount fundraising campaigns on their behalf when they get sick. When they are confronted with an accident or serious illness, they either get care that they'll never be afford to pay for, go bankrupt trying, or simply avoid going to the doctor at all.

Some conservatives believe that private charities should pick up the slack, an idea that belies all logic and economic reality. Americans' total charitable giving for everything—aid to the poor, universities, the arts, churches—totals around $300 billion per year. Total federal and state spending just on Medicaid and CHIP exceeds $400 billion per year. For those who can't access those programs, the toll of suffering is dramatic; according to one Harvard study, 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance.

Those numbers are about to come down, thanks to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. By virtue of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions will be able to sign up for Medicaid, and millions more will get subsidies that will allow them to afford private insurance. But faced with the prospect that Obamacare might actually help people, some conservative activists have mounted a campaign to discourage people from getting insured through the new insurance exchanges. It sounds almost like a liberal's parody of the depths to which conservatives would sink, but it's happening. They would actually like to see more people in Caleb Howe's desperate situation, rather than have them get insurance with any help from the government.

In other developed countries, the idea that someone with a life-threatening illness would have to solicit donations in order to obtain medical care is considered not just absurd but positively monstrous, evidence that a society that would allow such a thing itself suffers from a moral sickness. Even if it falls well short of perfection, that is a sickness the ACA goes a significant way toward curing, despite the best efforts of some to stop it.

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SO THEY SAY

What conclusion to draw? Maybe this: Economy watchers should head to the beach and take the rest of August off. Or maybe learn from Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day,” and take this opportunity to learn to play the piano, or be a better human being, or something. It’s a better use of time than trying to find an interesting, dramatic new trend in the July jobs numbers.

Ezra Klein, analyzing the July jobs numbers

DAILY MEME: BATTEN DOWN THE DIPLOMATIC HATCHES 

  • The State Department is closing 21 embassies and consulates in North Africa, the Middle East, and the surrounding environs this weekend—particularly August 4—because of potential al Qaeda attacks.
  • The total list so far: "Algiers, Algeria, Sana'a, Yemen; Tel Aviv, Israel; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Ankara, Turkey; Muscat, Oman; Doha, Qatar; Cairo, Egypt; Kabul, Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq; Amman, Jordan; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Manama, Bahrain; Tripoli, Libya; Nouakchott, Mauritania."
  • As Ed Kilgore sums it up, "I really have no idea what this is really about, but it sounds pretty serious."
  • The closures were accompanied by a world-wide travel alert
  • The timing may have to do with the end of Ramadan on Wednesday. Obama's birthday also happens to be on Sunday.
  • In other embassy news, CNN has learned that the CIA was on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attacks last fall. They're being very, very secretive about what they were up to.
  • Congress is mighty interested in all this ... as are the right-leaning media sites that have made this issue their cri de coeur for near a year. We'll see how this all unfolds.

WHAT WE'RE WRITING

  • The Middle East doesn’t abide expectations. Gershom Gorenberg writes that it is folly to predict how the Israel-Palestine peace talks will go.
  • Is Zimmerman ashamed of having killed Trayvon Martin? How upset is Paula Deen over using racist language? Steve Erickson thinks public embarrassment seems to no longer exist.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Want to know what Libertarians think? Listen to what they applaud and boo at.
  • Senate Republicans are looking to downsize the amount of judges on the D.C. Circuit Court and looking to filibuster two Obama nominees, which has Democrats reconsidering the nuclear option.
  • Law enforcement requests for Twitter users' personal information increased by 33 percent.
  • What are the differences between Boston's Anthony Weiner and New York' Anthony Weiner?
  • After the 2012 election, Congressional productivity continues to sound like an oxymoron as it has passed only 28 bills and has 221 civilian nominees awaiting confirmation.

POLL OF THE DAY 

Americans approve of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws 53-40 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Whites approve of the laws by a 57-37 majority, while blacks disapprove of it with the exact same percentages. Three quarters of Republicans are in favor of the law, while 62 percent of Democrats are in opposition. Men and women are also divided on this issue, which has a 62 percent approval rating among males and a 47 percent disapproval rating among females.

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