Yesterday, I was pushing back against all this nonsense about the poor people not able to keep their existing insurance plans. As I pointed out, these are just Placebo Policies. They make people feel that they have insurance, as long as they don’t use it. And that’s worse than useless. It’s very much like the Loony Tunes short “Fool Coverage.” In that video (which is sadly not available online), Daffy Duck convinces Porky Pig to buy accident insurance that will pay one million dollars for a black eye “as a result of a stampede of wild elephants running through his house between 3:55 and 4 PM on the Fourth of July, during a hailstorm.” When this actually happens, Daffy amends the clause, “A stampede of wild elephants and one baby zebra!” And, of course, a baby Zebra shows up because it’s Loony Tunes and not the actual life of one of the people with one of these placebo policies.
Jonathan Cohn has laid out just what is going on with the Republican plan to help these tragic victims who are being forced to get real insurance. The plan by Republican Representative Fred Upton is all of 235 words. And in that small bill there is the undoing of Obamacare. The problem is that the bill not only says that these useless plans can be sold to the people who already have them, it says they can be sold to anyone. This will cause of the young and healthy people to bail out of the exchanges and get these cheap faux policies. All the older and sicker people will stay in the exchanges because (1) they need actual insurance and (2) the companies would deny them for these plans anyway. Thus the price for everyone else would go up. Goodbye Obamacare.
The obvious question is whether the Democrats are really stupid enough to go along with this. Jonathan Chait wrote a very good overview of the Democratic Party freak out that is going on right now. He noted, “Undermining Obamacare in order to placate angry individual-insurance holders makes no sense even on narrow political terms.” But the Democrats can’t seem to hide their terror. Next year’s elections are a long time off, and none of this is going to mean anything if the exchange website starts working and the television narrative changes from “the website isn’t working” to “everyone is getting great prices on insurance!”
The whole thing makes me want to freak out! After all, I am only grudgingly a Democrat. But I do so identify because it is the liberal(ish) party in a two party system. One can’t expect to get everything; this is politics. But when the actual politicians of the party don’t understand the basics of politics, it is disconcerting. It doesn’t mean anything to “win the week.” It isn’t like the way long term interest rates predict later short term rates. This crisis will likely blow over and mean nothing in the long term. The Republicans seem to understand this. Why can’t the Democrats?
What we most definitely don’t want to do is make the signature legislative accomplishment of the sitting president collapse because of panic over looking bad on the Sunday political talk shows. What’s more, as both Cohn and Chait discuss, these measures aren’t likely to work even at what they intend to do. So they are not helping the 2% they want to help, and they will be hurting ten times as many people the law will be helping as it is. It just makes no sense. I think it is time for Samuel L Jackson to make a video for our Democratic representatives. Calm the fuck down!