In A Possibly Fatal Mistake, his Sunday New York Times column, Kristof tells us about 52 year old Scott Androes, his freshman year roommate at Harvard. They knew one another from Future Farmers of America in Oregon, and when they both got into the elite college asked to room together. He tells us about his friend and offers some of their history together. He describes his friend as "even-keeled, prudent and cautious" and then goes on to offer this:
He never lost his temper, never drove too fast, never got drunk, never smoked marijuana.He explains that Scott, at age 52, is now suffering from Stage 4 Prostate cancer, in large part because he did not have health insurance. He wants us to listen to Scott's story, especially if we favor getting rid of the Affordable Care Act.
Well, not that I remember. I don’t want to discredit his youth.
You need to read what Scott writes about himself. If you do, you might not need to finish reading this diary.
I am not going to share the details he offers.
But I will pick up below the fold with some of the words Kristof offers.
Scott is precisely the kind of person Mitt Romney would exclude from help. He acknowledges he understood the risk he was taking, but also was very aware of the costs to someone buying outside of his employment. He understood the actuarial risks, and would acknowledge that it is his mistake, from which he might well die.
The heart of Kristof's column comes in the following three paragraphs:
Yet remember also that while Scott was foolish, mostly he was unlucky. He is a bachelor, so he didn’t have a spouse whose insurance he could fall back on in his midlife crisis. In any case, we all take risks, and usually we get away with them. Scott is a usually prudent guy who took a chance, and then everything went wrong.Kristof does not think this creates a nanny state, but rather a civilized one.
The Mitt Romney philosophy, as I understand it, is that this is a tragic but necessary byproduct of requiring Americans to take personal responsibility for their lives. They need to understand that mistakes have consequences. That’s why Romney would repeal Obamacare and leave people like Scott to pay the price for their irresponsibility.
To me, that seems ineffably harsh. We all make mistakes, and a humane government tries to compensate for our misjudgments. That’s why highways have guardrails, why drivers must wear seat belts, why police officers pull over speeders, why we have fire codes. In other modern countries, Scott would have been insured, and his cancer would have been much more likely to be detected in time for effective treatment.
He offers more of Scott's words.
This is by Kristofs standard a very long piece.
I have already pushed fair use.
I have offered none of Scott's words.
And I am only about 1/2-way through this remarkable and powerful piece.
So perhaps what I need to say is this:
if you are still here and have not yet read the entire Kristof piece, please do so.
If you did and continued because you wanted to see what I had to offer, there is little I can add to what is in the column.
Many of us may know of similar situations, but we do not have the megaphone Kristof's column gives him. Our voices do not speak with the power of a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
We should be grateful that Nick Kristof is Scott Androes' friend. We should be equally grateful that Scott was willing to share his story with us, through his friend Nick Kristof.
This is a column that should be widely distributed.
It is worthy of yet another Pulitzer, although I know that no such thought entered Kristof's mind when he put it together.
His friend is probably dying.
Obamacare will mean that others like Scott Androes might not have to die.
I know the difference health insurance makes. My episodes in emergency rooms with severe allergic reactions, and three episodes where there was concern I might be facing serious heart problems cost me little out of pocket, because I had excellent health insurance through my employer.
We have the best possible health care available in the US, but not all have access to it.
I see that each time I volunteer at yet another free medical/dental clinic.
Obamacare is far from sufficient, but it is still a huge improvement over what the previous situation was.
the Times does not let its writers endorse, at least not officially, although as anyone who regular reads Krugman knows, he is quite capable of making clear his inclinations and why.
Kristof makes it clear that Obamacare is one reason this election is important.
Before he allows his friend's words to conclude his column, he tells us that as we watch debates and follow the election, it should be about far more than the political fortunes of candidates and parties:
The real impact of the election will be felt in the lives of men and women around the country, in spheres as intimate as our gut-wrenching fear when we spot blood in our urine.Read the column. Please.
Our choices this election come too late for Scott, although I hope that my friend from tiny Silverton, Ore., who somehow beat the odds so many times already in his life, will also beat this cancer. The election has the potential to help save the lives of many others who don’t have insurance.
Distribute it widely.
And hope and pray that Obamacare is just the first albeit necessary step to even more complete health care reform in this country, for the sake of all of us, morally as well as a matter of physical health.