An Awkward Twitter Exchange With A Former Employer

edit: apparently, this article has gotten a fair bit of attention from Hacker News. There’s a link here.

edit 2: the HN link was flagged and removed.

edit 3: like adults, Kevin and I talked out our differences. I still think he came off as exceedingly callous, and we still fundamentally disagree on several core issues here. But we both have a fair bit of common ground. While I still feel justified in initially writing this little post, know that I feel comfortable discussing these issues with him and anyone else on reasonably civil terms.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the American Health Care Act, known by many as Trumpcare, died a somewhat ignominious death on the floor of the US House last week.

I say good riddance to the bill. And, moreover, I tweeted out “Next stop: Single Payer” because I’m a fan of the idea of single payer healthcare. (I’m no policy expert in much of anything, much less healthcare, so I openly admit that my affinity for single payer is purely based on feelings.)

So anyways, who parades into the @-replies like the little kid in the Robert Kelly BBC video but the CTO of the company I used to research and write for…

Kevin Morrill, CTO of Mattermark and spouse of the company’s CEO, asked, “you’re buying, right?” He’s clearly not a fan of the idea of single payer healthcare, which is fine, but what I find difficult to accept is Morrill’s attitude toward the poor.

I asked, “Out of curiosity, if not single payer, what’s your idea of a solid solution to the healthcare issue? I’m no policy expert

He responded: “we repeal all leglislation, including 1960s stuff. People by insurance for surprising events out of their own pocket,” continuing with “the rest is paid out of pocket. It would likely be on par with what we spend on auto maintenance.

Yeah, okay. I’m not even going to get started about the “cheap as car maintenance” assertion…

He concludes: “whatever the cost ends up being, billionaires are not morally responsible for my healtcare expenses.” Again, this is a totally fair opinion to hold.

So I ask a followup question: “Is there any expense or negative externality you may incur that billionaires should alleviate?

He says: “the big externality is … which I’m saying is part of what goes. I will be honest about what that means.”

FYI: EMTALA is the law that says that people who come to an emergency room must be stabilized and treated, regardless of their ability to pay. Although it can be abused, it’s also a backstop against poor people dying just because they’re poor.

He then said, “proponents of EMTALA will not be honest that they favor lightweight slavery to fund their invented human right.”

To which I responded, “And what is this ‘invented’ human right? (Remember, you’re saying this in public…)”

He said, “everything in the link I sent and the demand upon other humans to make it happen”

Taken aback by all of this, I tried to confirm what he was saying. I asked, “Are you arguing against ‘[ensuring] public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay’ even if life or death?” To which he answered, “Yes.”

So I ask my final question: “Reductio ad absurdum: people too poor to afford healthcare should die?”

It was to this that Mr. Morrill delivered the line that bothers me most: “No, they should find a way to live”

They should find a way to live. If only it were that easy. Telling a sick poor person to just “find a way to live” in Kevin Morrill’s world sounds to me like telling a person who’s on fire to just not get burned.

I’ve done my best to keep my nose out of politics lately. I wouldn’t have singled Kevin out for merely disagreeing with me. But to characterize compliance with a law that’s meant to prioritize helping the sick or severely injured first and figuring out the billing situation afterward as “lightweight slavery” crosses a rhetorical line for me. Saying that the poor and sick should simply “find a way to live” strikes me as incredibly callous, and that’s the kind reading of it.

I say all of this as someone with family in the medical field, and as someone who was temporarily uninsured last year.

Of course, there were no responses to the hypothetical scenarios I tweeted back. What if he and his partner were poor and had a child with a chronic, expensive health condition and they suddenly found themselves uninsured? What if I was destitute and needed a life-saving surgery in the next couple hours? Then what? Would he just tell his child that they should find a way to live with it? I highly doubt it.

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