Would Herman Cain have died under Obamacare?

by Patricia Salber

So, did you watch the Florida Republican Presidental debate on TV?  The usual cast of characters were there with the usual rhetoric:  “I will repeal Obamacare as my first act in office.”   They usually don’t say why they hate it so much, besides the fact that it means spending money to help out the growing legions of uninsureds in this country.  [BTW, yesterday we learned that Obamacare is already having a positive effect – reducing the number of uninsured 18-25 year olds because they can now remain on their parents plan.]

But last night’s debate had candidate Herman Cain, evidently a 5 year survivor of metastatic colon cancer, saying he would be dead if he had been under Obamacare.  Why, he was asked – because, he claims, some government bureaucrat would have gotten between him and his CT scan and slowed down his workup and treatment.  You can hear him explain it in his own words in the video below:

Now, you and I know that if you are rich – and Mr. Cain is indeed rich – you can get all the healthcare you need an want and you can get it quickly in aggressive, world class cancer centers, like MD Anderson.  Even if Obamacare – and I use the term as a compliment to the President – had been fully enacted when Mr. Cain got his diagnosis, he still could have had the same private insurance plan and he still could have afforded to pay out of pocket for anything not covered by his plan.

Obamacare is NOT about having a bureaucrat get in between rich people and their rich health benefits.  It is about providing at least some basic health coverage for people without insurance so they have a chance to get care on “their own time table” as well.

At the Tea Party sponsored Republican debate, Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked what should happen to a 30 year old man with a good job who gets sick and needs 6 months of ICU care.  He has no health insurance because he didn’t want to spent $3-400 per month to pay for it?  Candidate Ron Paul, a physician, answered that the man should have bought health insurance.  But he doesn’t have it protested Blitzer, should society just let him die?  Listen all the way to the end to hear how the Tea Party audience responds:

Let him die? Yes, yes some people in the audience shout.  Are you kidding me?  This is really what we want in a civilized society?  I think not.  If Obamacare is fully enacted this hypothetical young man would have had health insurance because he would have been mandated to do so.  The mandate expands the insured pool, brings more revenue into the system and reduces cost shifting that occurs because of a need to cover costs of uninsured/underinsured.  What would you rather have?  A mandate or people dying because they don’t have insurance?  Hmmm, let me think about that….

Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the founder and host of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.


  1. This debate exchange — and your critique — was the clearest delineation I have seen between Obamacare and non-Obamacare. Sometimes an anecdote or vignette is more compelling than all the world’s statistics

    • Thanks Al. The Republican debates have been very enlightening, particularly when the candidates make statements, like Herman Cain did about Obamacare, that just do not pass the sniff test. Pat