Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Will You Take Away My Health Insurance?"

David Frum has an article, written from the dwindling perspective of a moderate Republican warning about a serious danger Republicans face in the upcoming election.  They have put immense energy into denouncing Obamacare and vowing its repeal.  Meantime, Obamacare has come into effect and as many as 20 million people have gotten health insurance through it.  Sooner or later, some of them are going to start asking Republican candidates, "Will you take away my health insurance?"

What is a Republican candidate to say?

I suppose you could rally the base by saying, "Anyone wicked enough to accept health insurance from Obamacare deserves to lose it."  But that is a surefire loser with everyone else, so I don't imagine we will be hearing it.

Not much better would be saying, "I'm sorry to take away your health insurance, but the fact that you have it has ended all liberty, turned our country into a Communist dictatorship, and my lead to the murder of my grandmother.  I'm sure you will agree that giving up your health insurance is a small price to pay for ending this nightmare of oppression that has resulted from you having it."

You could say that repealing Obamacare may take away your health insurance tomorrow, but it will make it more accessible in the long run.  But I doubt that would go over well.  After all, we all know what Keynes said about the long run.

The best a Republican can say is that, although he intends to repeal the system some 20 million people may use to get health insurance, Republicans plan to replace it with something better.  But Frum points out the problems with that approach.  For one thing, people who have access to healthcare don't like the thought of their insurance system being monkeyed with.  Republicans have been using that fact very much to their advantage since 2010.  Now it may come back to haunt them.  Second, Republicans have yet to give any coherent account of what they would replace Obamacare with.  Any plan they come up with will invariably have losers as well as winner, and the losers will be a lot angrier than the winners are happy.  Third, to the extent Republicans have any alternative, it invariably involves covering fewer conditions, higher copays, higher deductibles, and generally attempting to shift more costs to the consumer in an attempt to encourage people to consume less.  Raise your hand if you think that will be popular.

If people who have gotten health insurance through Obamacare ask Republicans if they intend to take it away, and if Republicans are unable to give any coherent answer, people who are insured through Obamacare will draw the appropriate conclusions and vote accordingly.

Any Democratic candidate with any sense should be arranging to set up as many such encounters as possible.  Of course "Democratic candidate with any sense" is an important qualifier.

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