John and Scott have exposed many of the fallacies and obnoxious qualities of the “rally the forces” speech President Obama delivered yesterday on behalf Obamacare. I want to focus on one particular fallacy.
Obama defended the concept of Obamacare with these words:
[W]e took up the fight because we believe that, in America, nobody should have to worry about going broke just because somebody in their family or they get sick. We believe that nobody should have to choose between putting food on their kids’ table or taking them to see a doctor.
The fallacy is that, putting aside the matter of preexisting conditions, nobody needed to have to worry about going broke due to sickness; nor was the choice for Americans between “putting food on their kids’ table or taking them to see a doctor.” The choice was, and under Obamacare remains, between buying health insurance and not buying it.
In saying this, I don’t mean to minimize the benefit Obamacare confers on those with preexisting conditions. But I put this benefit aside because it could have been achieved without the monstrosity that is Obamacare.
Returning to my theme, if under Obamacare the fundamental choice remains whether to purchase insurance or not to purchase it, what has changed?
For one thing, the choice of plans that one can purchase has shrunk. People can no longer purchase inexpensive plans that suit their purposes. It’s not smart to pay insurance premiums for events that, if they occur, one can cover financially. That’s why I buy auto insurance but not insurance on my television.
Pre-Obamacare one could buy cheap insurance that covered catastrophic health problems that might bring about financial ruin, but did not cover more mundane medical issues. Under Obamacare, that option no longer exists. Yet this is the insurance best designed to prevent people from “going broke due to sickness,” as Obama puts it.
Is this lack of choice a good thing or a bad thing? The telling evidence on this question is the fact that Obama lied in order to hide this consequence of Obamacare. By repeatedly saying “if you like you plan, you can keep your plan,” Obama recognized that most people believe it is their right to decide what health plan works best for them.
In a second, and related, change under Obamacare, people are now legally required to have health insurance. One can debate whether this is a good idea. Most conservatives believe it is not, although some (including analysts at the Heritage Foundation) agreed with the idea in the past.
But the impact of this change remains to be seen. The fine for not purchasing insurance is relatively small and it’s not clear whether or to what extent it will be collected. We’ll see how many people purchase health insurance as a result of the individual mandate. Those who don’t purchase it will still “have to worry about going broke just because somebody in their family or they get sick.”
The third major change under Obamacare is that some people get other people to pay for their health insurance. Indeed, income redistribution, though hidden, is probably Obamacare’s most salient feature.
Is the redistribution a good thing? Or, prior to Obamacare, did taxpayers already spend enough of their money paying for other folks’ health care through the pre-expansion version of Medicaid?
Again this can be debated. My point is that this is where the debate should focus. The debate should not center on false claims that, prior to Obamacare, the choice for Americans was between getting treatment and not eating, or that people had no defense against “going broke” in the event of a family health care crisis.
Americans had options to avoid the horribles that Obama parades. Thanks to Obama, they now have fewer options and more expensive ones.