Million-dollar man

Students of Critical Thinking 101 know (or ought to know) that not all instances of the tu quoque are fallacious.  After all, someone’s hypocrisy on an issue is relevant insofar as it reveals that her proposal is insincere or too difficult or impractical to implement.

Talking Points Memo provides an example of both of these conditions:

More than a decade ago, Arkansas Rep. Josh Miller (R) was in a catastrophic car accident that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. Medicare and Medicaid paid the $1 million bill for his hospitalization and rehabilitation.

But this week, as the Arkansas legislature has debated continuing its privatized Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, Miller has remained steadfast in his opposition.

The Arkansas Times highlighted the contrast in a Thursday report. The alternative newspaper reported that Miller receives ongoing coverage through the government programs, including Medicaid-covered personal care assistance.

The Times asked Miller, 33, about this apparent contradiction: Shouldn’t someone who has experienced the benefits of health insurance, including insurance paid for by the government, understand the importance of expanding those benefits to others?

The difference, he said, is that some of the 100,000 people who have gained coverage through Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion don’t work hard enough or just want access to the program so they can purchase and abuse prescription drugs.

“My problem is two things,” Miller said. “One, we are giving it to able-bodied folks who can work … and two, how do we pay for it?”

The accident that paralyzed Miller occurred about 11 years ago, the Times reported. He was driving with a friend, alcohol was involved, but Miller said he couldn’t remember who was driving. When he arrived at the hospital with his life-changing injuries, he was uninsured.

In case you don’t know, Medicaid expansion consists in extending the benefits of Medicaid (federal health coverage for the poor) to those working poor people (138 percent of the federal poverty line) who would otherwise be too poor to afford insurance, but too, er, rich to qualify for Medicaid.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (at the link), this would account for half of the uninsured people in America.

According to Miller, these people–mostly people who work low-paying or minimum wage jobs–ought not to have health insurance (and thus health care) while he, uninsured twenty-something drunk driver, ought to.  Indeed, the latter’s needs are to be protected against incursion by the needs of the former.  If only some of them were drunk drivers, then maybe he’d be more sympathetic.

7 thoughts on “Million-dollar man”

  1. Proverbs 17 v. 5a “Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;”

    There’s no doubt that there is plenty of abuse of medicare and medicaid, but that’s not a good excuse to ignore the poor and provide much needed help. The benefit of helping those in need outweighs any abuses in my opinion.

  2. Hi BN,

    Yes, there’s another element to Miller’s argument: the oversized concerns for fraud and abuse. Tax evasion happens, yet we still have tax laws. And this just underscores his hypocrisy: medicaid, in its classic form, must encourage youngsters to behave recklessly, as it will be there to take care of them long into old age.

  3. Hi John, I wonder if there’s a case here to be made about double-standards tu quoque arguments here. Once we are aware of all of the facts about Miller’s injury and financial situation before, it does seem a clear case of failure to treat like cases alike. I wonder if whether Miller has ever conceded that his own case is one that would not be allowed given his proposal, and that he should be OK with it.

  4. In what I’ve read, it seems not. He considers what he has to be “traditional” Medicaid (which he supports, and claims to be protecting), while the expansion (paid for at first entirely and then 95% by the Feds) is something different (and not justified).

  5. So if you don’t work at all you should be eligible for “traditional” Medicaid, but if you’re among the working poor with no employer-sponsored health insurance you should be left without insurance? And we should assume that people who are among the working poor are lazy and/or only after insurance so they can obtain and abuse prescription drugs?

    He’s a remarkable thinker.

  6. Hi Aaron,

    That’s right. There’s also something of the Gracchi scheme here: the Gracchi got the death penalty for far less crimes than Cataline, ergo, Cataline ought to get at least the death penalty.

    At the very least, this punishes work.

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