Conservatives Would Kill Rather Than Accept Obamacare

We Heart ObamacareAdrianna McIntyre wrote a very good article over at The Incidental Economist, Read the Fine Print Before You Burn Your Obamacare Card. It is a response to FreedomWorks and other conservative groups who are trying to undermine Obamacare by getting young people to refuse to sign up. This is beyond cynicism: this is straight out villainy.

Look at what they are trying to do. The fundamental idea behind Obamacare is shared risk: by requiring all Americans to carry health insurance, the risk pool is larger so costs go down. The conservatives are trying to get the healthiest (young) people to opt out of the program. This would, in theory, poison the risk pool and increase costs. And look at who would pay those increased costs. Individuals with employer-provided health insurance would pay more. Those buying insurance on the exchanges would pay more. And the government (that is: all taxpayers) would pay more than they otherwise would for programs like Medicaid.

Meanwhile, those who FreedomWorks would have opt out, would also suffer. As McIntyre noted, open enrollment is only three months per year. So it isn’t like young people could just opt in as soon as they had need. What’s more, their use of emergency rooms rather than normal doctors visits would increase the health costs of the nation.

Now is the time that we hear from conservatives that everyone has health insurance because you can, as indicated in the last paragraph, “Just go to the emergency room! It’s free!” But it is most definitely not free. This was exactly what libertarian idiot Michael Cannon was tweeting out last week. Harold Pollack countered this nonsense brilliantly:

Michael cheerily responded over Twitter: “EMTALA covers stabbings. FYI.” (He’s referring to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, which ensures access to emergency room care.) I really wonder if Michael clicked through to the actual news story Adrianna referenced, which provides one illustration of why the argument “You can always get free emergency care” is dangerous and misguided.

Sure, you’re entitled to receive needed emergency care. The hospital is also entitled to send you a whopping bill. And much of the care you will need after a serious injury like that doesn’t fall under EMTALA at all. If you doubt that, I welcome you to enjoy the hospitality of my own great city’s emergency departments, and then to enjoy the hospitality of our county courthouse, scene of some heartrending proceedings highlighted in Jonathan Cohn’s terrific book Sick.

What all of this shows is that the conservative movement in this country really does not care about the health and welfare of the people. There seems to be no amount of harm that is too much to stop them from seeking political advantage. And Obamacare is, as I’ve written again and again, a conservative program! The only reason that Republicans and their allies are against it is because Obama was for it. In the name of scoring a political point or two, they would encourage people to put themselves in unnecessary danger.

Of course, it is far worse than that. Aaron Carroll at The Incidental Economist wrote about a Wall Street Journal editorial, Death Panels in Oregon. Oregon, as they have done for years, is planning to limit care that isn’t effective. When I lived there, for example, they de-prioritized the treatment of babies born without brains (Anencephaly). According to the WJS, this is an outrage! Strangely, limiting treatment is terrible, but simply denying it to millions of people is a-okay. Carroll responded:

First of all, I’m always a bit confused by the fact that it’s often the same people, and organizations, who rail against rationing within Medicaid while simultaneously railing against the Medicaid expansion. Evidently, they are fine with completely denying Medicaid to many of the poorest among us, but against making Medicaid less robust once they get it. Odd.

But my larger concern is one of philosophy. We simply cannot afford to pay for everything. We must own that. And so, there will at some point have to be discussions as to what we might not pay for…

I’d like to make a larger point. Although the editorial makes the case that this is the left’s one-size-fits all approach, that’s just not true. This is a discussion of Medicaid, not of Medicare, and not of private insurance (which also refuses to cover things, about which the WSJ doesn’t seem concerned). No one is prohibited from spending their own money on futile care. No one is prohibited from buying an insurance policy that will continue to cover futile care. What’s being discussed is how we will use taxpayer money to cover those at the lowest end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Recognize that anyone that qualifies for Medicaid will not be able to pay out of pocket for these services. Recognize that they will never be able to afford private insurance that covers these services. Recognize that we will never approve subsidies that will allow them to cover the services or private insurance that does. So either the government does, or no one does.

Have that debate. Have it in public. Have it civilly. But please don’t pretend to be outraged by that serious discussion while simultaneously being ok with denying much more to many more in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

But that is the conservative movement in a nutshell. There is much talk about how the Republican party spawned a base of voters who they now can’t control. But there is a similar problem with the conservative media outlets and think tanks. They make no sense. They spew up thoughtless editorials and reports that demonstrate that the movement itself doesn’t believe in any of the things that they claim to believe in. It is just a status quo party meant to make the wealthy ever richer. Added to that is pandering to social conservatives so that they have enough people to get elected. The rich get all the branches of government and the social conservatives get the judiciary. (Strange how socially conservative judges are always pro-business!) And other than these two aspects of their base, they don’t care at all about this country or its people.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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