April 25 2013
Why Americans will never love Obamacare
My college friend’s two-year-old son was born with a rare genetic disorder that severely compromises his immune system. He has been in and out of the hospital with life-threatening incidents since he was six months old, nearly dying seven times. His medical team consists of more than ten specialists, and dozens of nurses and physical therapists. My friend and her husband have health insurance, but their son’s medical costs eat up an entire salary from their two-career income. My heart aches for her; she has to endure not only her son’s terrifying illness, but also the crushing cost of keeping him healthy.
Like most Americans, I want to live in a society that takes care of people like my friend’s son; like most Americans, I would be ashamed if we collectively refused to lend a hand to people who, through no fault of their own, desperately need help. And, like most Americans, I do not support Obamacare. In fact, I despise it.
I do not suffer from cognitive dissonance. Obamacare is a despicable piece of legislation because it twists the noble desire to help those less fortunate into a duty to junk the entire United States health care system. It uses the common belief that we all should pitch in to help pay for the health expenses of a small percentage of the population as a disguise — a cover-up — for what it really is: a federal seizure of the administration and oversight of the entire health care and insurance system.
Think about it: Do we need the government to take over all of the nation’s grocery stores in order to feed the poor? Do we need the government to run the entire clothing industry in order to make sure people have clothes? No. Providing healthcare for people like my friend’s son requires setting aside the funds to pay for it, and sufficient oversight to make sure that he has access to the same quality of care as everyone else.
There are far easier and cheaper ways to help people manage crushing healthcare costs. So why did the Obama administration insist on the complicated route of health insurance regulation and individual mandates? Many different interests are likely at play, but a single theme unites the whole mess: At bottom, Obamacare is designed to hide the cost of helping unfortunate people like my friend’s son by pushing everyone together into the same “insurance” system. It forbids insurance companies from fully assessing the likely medical cost of treating the sick, and forces them to bury that cost into everyone else’s premiums.
This is a perversion of the concept of insurance. At a basic level, “insuring” people like my friend’s son doesn’t make sense. His health care costs are astronomical. It is simpler to set aside tax dollars and fund his care separately.
The purpose of Obamacare is to hide how much we are helping people, and which people are receiving that help. Its supporters trade efficiency for murkiness because they realize that, while the public is perfectly willing to help the elderly and people who suffer illness through no fault of their own, we are more ambivalent about paying for those who have ruined their health with bad habits and risky lifestyles. Rather than having an honest discussion about these issues, the Democrats have decided to take advantage of Americans’ kindness, obscuring the fruit of our charity so that bureaucratic waste and progressive social engineering projects can remain safely hidden from the public eye.
Obamacare casts us all as heartless misers, unwilling to lift a finger to help people who are truly unfortunate. This isn’t true. Americans are willing to help people like my friend’s son. Moreover, Americans want to see and to celebrate the promising research, the advances against terrible diseases, and the lives that are touched each year by our kindness. We don’t want these efforts buried and diminished by inefficient bureaucracy. Americans will never love Obamacare because it is designed to give government the responsibility and the credit for helping those in need. The reality is that we, the people, are helping one another. Or we would anyway, if the government would get out of the way and let us.
Lane Scott is a Ph.D. candidate, visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, and a John M. Olin Foundation Fellow at the School of Politics and Economics at Claremont Graduate University.