The Internet is buzzing with news that a protestor favoring healthcare reform morphed into Mike Tyson and bit off the finger of a 65-year-old opponent of healthcare reform. Conservative and liberal bloggers have exchanged jabs -- pretending that the ideology of either the biter or bitee says something about the merits of healthcare reform. Kids: GROW UP!
Here's a more interesting question, suggested to me by a dear friend who shares my zeal for provocative things: Does the victim in the finger attack have health insurance? According to reports, the individual drove himself to a hospital. If he has health insurance, then that is great. If he does not, then federal law requires that emergency rooms offer care to everyone in need. The taxpayers pay for this. Universal coverage could help bring down those costs.
Because the victim is 65, it is very likely that he has Medicare (UPDATE: He has Medicare - see below). Medicare is a public health plan. It is the largest public plan in the nation. Although Republicans argue that public plans = socialized medicine, they pretend to care about Medicare. Apparently, 62% of Republicans want the government to "stay out of Medicare," which is clearly impossible. If the victim has Medicare and opposes healthcare reforms, then it is ironic that he used taxpayer money to get treatment that he does not believe taxpayer money should provide to others.
Even if the victim has an employer-sponsored plan, studies show that state and federal tax policy heavily subsidizes those programs by not treating the value of the benefits as income and allowing employers to take a deduction for the costs of paying premiums. If the victim has bought and paid for his own insurance on the open market, he is in a category of roughly 5% of Americans. That's great for him, but I cannot think of a good reason why the status of 5% of Americans should dictate the outcome of healthcare reform debates.
Final Word: Finger biting is horrible. Being uninsured is horrible. Let's remedy both!
UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, the victim has Medicare. He is a public plan recipient who apparently opposes public plans.