For Ron Paul, Question About the Uninsured May Have Hit Close to Home

Presidential hopeful Ron Paul, who made controversial comments about how to handle the uninsured during this week’s GOP debate in Tampa, Fla., is no stranger with dealing with the uninsured himself.

In 2008, his campaign chairman, Kent Snyder, was uninsured and battling viral pneumonia. After two months of hospitalization, the medical bills reportedly topped $400,000, which Kent’s family eventually had to repay.

Snyder died of viral pneumonia in 2008.

At Monday’s debate, Paul suggested that the uninsured should look to charities for help, not to taxpayers.

Kent’s sister, Michelle Caskey, told the Kansas City Star that her brother was unable to get insurance because a pre-existing condition made premiums too expensive.

To help, Snyder’s friends created a website to solicit money, appealing to the same donors who months before gave to Ron Paul’s campaign fund.

“I don’t think he would ever have realized he’d be in the hospital this long,” Caskey, told the Kansas City Star after her brother’s death in 2008.

“It’s very nice,” she added, that people were trying to help.

Paul’s 2012 campaign spokesman, Gary Howard, did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this story.

Ron Paul has spent the past few days trying to defend his position concerning the uninsured during Monday’s CNN/Tea Party debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Paul a hypothetical question about who should pay for an uninsured 30-year-old man in need of emergency care.

Paul, a medical doctor, answered that the man should take care of himself.

Wolf Blitzer asked, “Should society just let him die?”

Some in the audience roared in acceptance and clapped.

Paul said that people need to assume responsibility for themselves and clarified on Twitter later that evening that charities should fill the void for the uninsured, not the government.

But Paul’s response and the audience’s reaction exposed him to broad criticism.

Even Rick Perry told NBC News on Tuesday that he was  surprised.

“I was a bit taken aback by that myself,” said Perry. “We’re the party of life. We ought to be coming up with ways to save lives.”

Appearing on CNN two days after the debate, Paul insisted that calling his comments mean-spirited was “foolish.”

“For somebody to turn around and say there’s one individual who didn’t have this care, you know, all of a sudden you hate people and you’re going to let them die?” Paul said on CNN’s Newsroom. “I spent a lifetime in medicine. To turn that around like that is foolish.”