Santorum: No one has ever died because they didn't have health insurance

By Kelly Mehler
06:05 PM
Share

Back in December, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum stirred up trouble when he declared that nobody has ever died because they did not have health insurance. Backed by research and personal stories, this is widely considered false.

"The answer is not what can we do to prevent deaths because of a lack of health insurance," Santorum stated while speaking to a group of about 100 students at a small Iowa Christian college. "I reject that number completely, that people die in America because of lack of health insurance."

At the event, Santorum was asked to brief the audience with his stance on healthcare and the Christian responsibility for caring for the poor. According to an ABC News report, one student said he didn't think God appreciated that we have 50,000 to 100,000 uninsured Americans dying annually because they lack health insurance.

How did our healthcare-based social media following respond to Santorum's statement?

"Obviously people die because of lack of healthcare," commented Jonathan Pearce, CPA, on the Healthcare Finance News LinkedIn group. "Politicians, journalists and others outside of the healthcare professions (and often some inside of the profession) tend to get terms mixed up when reporting on healthcare issues, so I'd look at the essence of his comment rather than the exact way that he expressed it or how it was reported."

LinkedIn user Gregory Dennis questioned how after these remarks, Santorum can still be considered a serious candidate. "As usual, Mr. Santorum's perceptions are laughably weird," he stated.

Fellow Healthcare IT News blogger Keith Boone, aka @motorcycle_guy on Twitter, relayed the same sentiment. "I find it hard to believe anyone with a functional brain would ever say 'Nobody has died because they didn't have healthcare,'" he tweeted.

Albert Santalo, president and CEO of CareCloud, said Santorum rejecting studies that show uninsured Americans are at a higher risk of mortality also comes off as an "underhanded jab" at universal healthcare coverage.

"His statement depicts two discrepancies," professed Santalo in an interview with Healthcare IT News. "Healthcare is not only a basic right according to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but studies suggest lack of health insurance contributes to nearly 50,000 yearly deaths nationwide."

49.9 million Americans were uninsured as of September. According to Santalo, the topic moves from questioning the universality of healthcare to how we can make it happen.

Santorum's setback has been circulating around various blogs and forums online. Remarking on a forum from the website "The New Civil Rights Movement," is @labman57. The commenter noted that it seems to him Santorum lacks the capacity to engage in analytical thinking. "People with chronic, potentially life-threatening illnesses require proactive, preventative medical care to diagnose and treat these illnesses in their early stages," he said.

Responding to @lambman57 comments was healthcare professional @perkustooth. "Santorum is, sadly, pretty much representative of the tone and ideas of the GOP," she said. "As a healthcare professional myself I have seen many people suffer and die for lack of sufficient coverage or means to pay. This is obviously based on rhetoric and not on even lousy data collection, because you could not back up this assertion with believable data."

She goes on by saying Santorum's comments were "insensitive" and "stupid."

Then there's @Scott6113, who tells the story of his good friend, age 55, who did contract work in Pennsylvania and had no health insurance. "An undiagnosed condition nearly killed him." Scott claimed. "The hospital stabilized him, the program got him a cataract operation, other care, but the condition got him in the end, since the damage was already done by the time he got in the emergency room."

Scott's story is one of 12 similar stories that appear on the "The News Civil Rights Movement" blog.

A forum on the topic from the ABC News site is filled with commenter's suggestions on what Santorum must have meant. They also contribute to the discussion by giving their opinions on how the government should be dealing with the high numbers of uninsured Americans.

"Santorum should offer another solution that protects patients against private insurance company cherry-picking," commented @Wayne. "Provide another solution that is affordable to the uninsured instead of telling them they have to pay just about everything out of pocket through deductibles and co-insurance."

The GOP nominee has also attacked the Affordable Care Act, pointing his finger at the "government-run" program and how GOP candidates cannot be in the same place as Obama when it comes to healthcare.

"The Affordable Care Act is not 'government- run healthcare' as he described it," commented @Sai. "It is simply regulating the excesses of the insurance industry who were using every way possible to not cover the sickest and to deny coverage for many who became sick while insured." He added that those people might not pay enough to prevent their family from going bankrupt because of medical bills.