Health / Death / 2012
If This Doesn't Become Rick Santorum's HPV Vaccine Gaffe...
by Dan Savage
on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 at 1:12 PM
...then Michele Bachmann has a point about being treated unfairly by the media. Santorum was challenged by a student at a conservative Christian college today:
It started with a freshman who said he's been studying certain books of the Bible recently, which prompted him to ask about healthcare. "God is very angry toward societies that don't care for the poor," student Ryan Walters began. "If not for our social programs, how can we as a society care for our poor? ... With all due respect Sen. Santorum, I don't think God appreciates the fact that we have 50-100 thousand uninsured Americans dying due to a lack of healthcare every year."
"Dying?" Santorum shot back, seeming genuinely taken aback.
"I believe that is a statistic," Walters said.
"So 50 to 100 thousand Americans are dying due to lack of healthcare?"
"And preventable diseases, yes sir."
"Healthcare and preventable diseases? Where did you get that number?"
The student said he believed it was from "statistical evidence."
Santorum said people "don't get statistical evidence from thin air" and said, "I reject that number completely, that people die in America because of lack of health insurance."
Research released this week in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. If a person is uninsured, "it means you're at mortal risk," said one of the authors, Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The researchers examined government health surveys from more than 9,000 people aged 17 to 64, taken from 1986-1994, and then followed up through 2000. They determined that the uninsured have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The researchers then extrapolated the results to census data from 2005 and calculated there were 44,789 deaths associated with lack of health insurance.
Hopefully there's a journalist out there who's half as brave as this student—a kid at a conservative Christian college (Santorum initial reaction to this student's line of questioning: "You go to Dordt College and ask me that question?")—who'll ask Santorum some follow up questions about his factually untrue statement. Santorum is entitled to his own opinions, as the saying goes, but not his own facts. Thousands of Americans are dying every year for lack of access to health care and Rick Santorum wants to make sure Americans keep dying for lack of health insurance. Santorum should be forced to make a case for our cruel and un-Christian health care system.