Libertarian Hawk


Helping Obamacare Succeed Is Not Americans’ Civic Duty

May 22, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Thomas-Train-WreckAccording to liberals, it was “un-American” to protest the adoption of Obamacare.  Now apparently it’s unpatriotic not to go out of one’s way to help make it a roaring success.

The New York Times recently claimed that GOP congressmen and governors are spitefully refusing to fund or participate in Obamacare implementation solely to make the President look bad.  On Monday The Times argued that conservatives are harping on the Internal Revenue Agency scandal just so they can delegitimize the IRS and block its assigned role in determining citizens’ income eligibility for having to buy health insurance.

In the Times’ fantasy world, Republicans are going after former IRS tax-exempt division head Sarah Hall Ingram just so they can stall her installation as head of the IRS’s health care office.  The Times also claims that conservatives are spotlighting Department of Health and Human Services Head Kathleen Sebelius’s improper Obamacare lobbying efforts just so the law will fail.

Meanwhile, The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn complains that fast food restaurant owners, nursing home operators, and other low-wage employers are trying to “weasel out” of complying with Obamacare—as though it were every businessman’s patriotic duty to mindlessly accept intrusive, expensive regulations, or as though thousands of Democrat-connected organizations hadn’t already been granted waivers to evade the plan’s dictates.

Cohn explains that a loophole in the law may allow companies to offer employees only barebones coverage and pay a smaller fine than if they had offered no coverage.  But even Cohn admits to the role that free market forces properly play under such circumstances: “[T]hese companies would have to consider the competitive effects, which could push in either direction.  Do they provide less insurance, so they keep costs lower?  Or do they provide more, so they can attract better workers?  Different companies will undoubtedly respond in different ways…”  Yes, Jonathan, that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work in a free market—minus, of course, the government’s forcing employers to provide any coverage in the first place.

Cohn’s tepid nod to capitalism is positively Hayekian compared to the stance of Ezekiel Emanuel, one-time White House health policy advisor and brother of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm.  Ezekiel admits that Obamacare may be unsustainable, because it forces young, healthy people to pay disproportionately large premiums to subsidize sick, older people—an arrangement that the former won’t stand for and the latter can’t pick up the slack for.

Emanuel’s solution?  A massive public relations blitz that reminds the Millennium Generation just how much they love Obama, and that urges them to buy Obamacare health plans even if it makes no economic sense so that Dear Leader’s presidency won’t fail.

In a hilariously naïve and economically illiterate editorial, Emanuel preaches, “[Y]oung people believe in President Obama.  They overwhelmingly voted for him.  He won by a 23% margin among voters 18-29—just the people who need to enroll.  The president connects with young people, too, so he needs to use that bond and get out there to convince them to sign up for health insurance to help this central part of his legacy.  Every commencement address by an administration official should encourage young graduates to get health insurance.”  Every commencement address by an administration official should also explain to young graduates where exactly they’re going to find jobs in the Obama economy so they can purchase said insurance.

If I understand Emanuel’s appeal correctly, it’s that twentysomethings should subsidize Obama’s legacy, and in return they won’t look like fools for voting for him if his plan somehow miraculously succeeds.

Commenting on Emmanuel’s Don Draper approach to health care reform, Richard Epstein notes, “Emanuel’s expansive view of civic duty plays the game both ways when he accuses individuals who don’t purchase health insurance of ‘freeriding’ on the public.  But their purchase of insurance will allow the [older] preferred plan recipients to free ride on them.”  Emanuel assumes that young people are already in the bag for Democrats, whereas older folks’ votes need to be bought.

Emanuel also assumes that his proposed marketing campaign will cash in on the emotional nature of persuadable young voters.  Good luck with that.  Most young people who voted for Obama and supported Obamacare are nonetheless learning that the penalty for not having health insurance is lower than the actual cost of health insurance, and are acting according to their rational self-interest by declining to purchase it.  Would we expect young adults—who earn the least of all adult age groups—to do any less?

More broadly, would we expect other age groups, or small business owners, or large business owners, or private citizens, or unions, or—yes—Congressmen and their staffers not to try to find a way to get out of a plan they know costs more than it’s worth and unacceptably limits their options?  Are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi un-American for not signing up for health care exchanges that the poor schlubs in their districts will be forced to buy?

As Obamacare implementation stumbles on, more and more stakeholders are realizing that, not only is it not their duty to make the plan succeed, it is in their distinct interest to help it fail.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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