Robespierre reputedly welcomed the bloody French Revolution with the chilling statement: “One can’t expect to make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Versions of the quote have also been attributed, perhaps apocryphally, to Joseph Stalin. In these cases, the phrase signifies a willingness to kill for the sake of reforming society. Although not as extreme, I have noticed a disturbing dismissal of the victims of ObamaCare from those seeking to reform U.S. health care.
For example, conservative critics of ObamaCare have been trotting out people who claim that they are being hurt by the law. These anecdotes include cancer patients who claim they originally were covered under a low-frills policy, but now that that policy is no longer deemed “adequate” by the new law, their only recourse is a new policy that is simply unaffordable. Thus, for this awkward situation, ObamaCare is allegedly causing cancer patients to lose their coverage. Senator Harry Reid recently said, quite categorically, that such anecdotes of people being hurt in this way by ObamaCare are “all” (his word) false.
The political jockeying led Jonathan Chait to write a column wondering if it’s “mean” to “debunk lies about ObamaCare.” Both the tone and the substance of Chait’s column epitomizes the progressive response to these phoney-baloney whiners. Here’s a good sample paragraph:
Finding a person made worse off by a huge, complex social-policy reform still in its first months in a gigantic country ought to be simple, yet the Republican Party has continuously failed to achieve even in the modest task which was its charge. In her reply to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Cathy McMorris-Rogers held out the plight of “Bette from Spokane,” who is facing an astronomical price increase, which turned out to be highly inaccurate. The victim, Bette Grenier, could have secured a better plan if she had checked on the exchange, but told a reporter following up, “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all.” And yes, if the criteria for Obamacare victimhood includes forcing somebody to participate in a law designed by Barack Obama in order to save money, then any Obama-created health-care law is going to produce a lot of victims.
First of all, it’s not hard finding “a person made worse off” by ObamaCare, Mr. Chait: I’m one of them, and so are the millions of other healthy people with decent incomes. (For my personal anecdote, I am self-employed and will see about a 50% premium hike for a policy with a $1,000 per year higher deductible than my old plan.) What Chait meant to say was, “Finding a person whom ObamaCare is supposed to help, who is nonetheless made worse off…”
Yet let’s move beyond that quibble. It has simply been accepted into the pro-ObamaCare body of Official Truth that “Bette from Spokane” is doing just fine, thanks to the generous provisions of ObamaCare. But actually, let’s click the link that Chait gives, to the alleged debunking of her tale. We learn:
[T]he “nearly $700 per month” increase in [Bette Grenier's] premium that McMorris Rodgers cited in Tuesday night’s GOP response to the State of the Union address was based on one of the pricier options, a $1,200-a-month replacement plan that was pitched by Asuris Northwest to Grenier and her husband, Don.
The carrier also offered a less expensive, $1,052-per-month option in lieu of their soon-to-be-discontinued catastrophic coverage plan. And, Grenier acknowledged the couple probably could have shaved another $100 a month off the replacement policy costs by purchasing them from the state’s online portal, the Health Plan Finder website, but they chose to avoid the government health exchanges.
“I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all,” said Grenier, 58, who lives in the Chattaroy area and owns a roofing company with her husband. “We liked our old plan. It worked for us, but they can’t offer it anymore.”
The description of Grenier’s plight, along with the fact that McMorris Rodgers used only the woman’s first name in the televised address, sparked speculation among liberal bloggers and others that the figures may not hold up to scrutiny.
In Olympia, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler didn’t dismiss the possibility but was skeptical that someone would have no choice but to pay $700 per month more for a policy that meets the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements.
There are two interesting things to note about this. Far from demonstrating that Ms. Grenier is actually just fine, thank you very much, all we can conclude from this article is that instead of the couple’s premium going up 140%, Grenier concedes that by going with a cheaper plan and shopping on the government website, she could probably find a policy that had a premium hike of only 80%, costing an “only” extra $400 per month. And in this great economic environment, what kind of spoilsports are going to gripe about an extra $4,800 per year for a new health plan they don’t want?
The other interesting point in the quote above is that the state Insurance Commissioner doesn’t rule out the possibility that somebody might indeed have to pay $700 more per month for health insurance because of the law. Unlike Harry Reid and the progressive bloggers, this Mike Kreidler seems much more careful in his statements, and also cognizant of how the new rules might impact some households in unexpected ways.
Yet if we want a simply jaw-dropping example of callous disregard for people who are affected by government incompetence, try this recent gem from Paul Krugman:
What with the fuss over the CBO estimates of employment effects of health reform — Appendix C — everyone seems to have overlooked Appendix B, on the reform’s effects in doing what it was supposed to do: cover the uninsured. How has the disastrous initial rollout affected CBO’s projections about reform’s near future?
Here’s the answer:
[Krugman pastes shot of CBO table.]
Oh noes! The exchanges will cover 6 million people, not the 7 million we expected! The number of uninsured will fall 13 million, not 14 million!
In short, CBO thinks that reform has been only mildly set back by the healthcare.gov mess, that at this point it’s going pretty well.
Let’s make sure we understand the context of the above quotation. Krugman wants to know how the healthcare.gov fiasco is affecting estimates of how many uninsured people won’t be able to get coverage. The answer is, one million people. To Krugman, that’s just a mild set back, so trivial that it prompts a sarcastic “oh noes” of mock disappointment.
These million people are allegedly the ones Krugman cares so much about, that he’s willing to overturn millions of others people’s health insurance, not to mention imposing hundreds of billions in new taxes on “the rich.” In Krugman’s vision of the world, the fact that the Obama Administration couldn’t get its website running means a million people will have, at best, delayed medical care. Given that that’s how he officially claims to be looking at this, his reaction is rather shocking. It leads one to wonder how this is really about helping actual human beings, versus achieving political goals that will help “the disadvantaged” in the abstract.