The View From 1776
Friday, January 03, 2014
Holman Jenkins On The Wall Street Journal Strips Away ObamaCares’s Hypocrisy
ObamaCare, billed as a program to reduce medical care costs and to increase the number of people with medical insurance, is nothing more than a typical liberal-progressive-socialist program to redistribute wealth and to force equality of consumption at legislative gun-point.
This is what in the secular, materialistic religion of socialism is called social justice.
As I wrote in The Liberal Jihad - The Hundred-Year War Against the Constitution, this was explicitly described by Michael Walzer, self-described as a liberal-progressive who identifies with socialism. He is co-editor of Dissent, the journal founded by the late Irving Howe, the dean of Manhattan’s post-World-War-II socialist intellectuals.
Walzer’s principal point is that possession of money amounts to power and that such power is both unjust and unjustly used. It enables the rich to purchase every sort of social good. Why should these goods be distributed to people who have a talent for making money? This, he says, is morally implausible and unsatisfying.
Consider medical care. It should be distributed only to those who are sick, without regard to wealth, intelligence, or righteousness. But in America today, it is closely follows the income curve. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” would, however, be a fine slogan for medical care, he says. Taxes paid by all of us should pay doctors, and others who deliver similar sorts of social goods, for example, teachers and lawyers. It isn’t that every man should get what he deserves, as in the old definition of justice. The new standard is egalitarian, that is, everyone should have free and equal access to all the goods and services produced by our economy.
ObamaCare Is Redistribution, Not Reform
The law’s faults are daily being exposed. But maybe the mistakes will be instructive.
By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
Jan. 3, 2014 6:33 p.m. ET
HealthCare.gov has started to work as a new year dawns. But work at what? It still delivers a faulty vision of health-care reform.
Let it be said that ObamaCare provides fabulous benefits for some Americans. If you have serious health problems and a low income (but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid), you can get unlimited health care for a premium largely or completely subsidized by someone else.
If you are a young adult under 26, you can be covered on your parents’ policy at the expense of other insurance customers.
Down the road, if your employer doesn’t lay you off or reduce your hours, you may get health care.
But these benefits are delivered to some at the expense of others, thus qualify as “redistribution,” not “reform.” Reform, defined in any rigorous way, would benefit everybody because it would remove distortions that cause Americans to spend too much and get too little for their health-care dollar.
Way back in 2010, Mr. Obama’s strongest business supporter, Warren Buffett, made the case for reform before redistribution, telling CNBC: “Universality—yeah, I believe in insuring more people, but I don’t believe in insuring more people until you attack the cost aspect.”
One might quibble: Why couldn’t a proper law do both at the same time? But what we got instead, as Mr. Buffett foretold in the same television interview, was not reform but “2,000 pages . . . of nonsense.”
So let’s talk about deductibles. In terminal desperation, liberals now are calling Republicans hypocrites for criticizing ObamaCare’s high deductibles. After all, didn’t Republicans once favor higher out-of-pocket costs as a way to introduce more consumer sensitivity to the cost and value of health care?
With a stupidity that is an inexcusable imposition on their readers, some prominent bloggers have taken up this line in especially shrill fashion. But there is no right or wrong size for a deductible (or provider network for that matter), just one of the many features consumers trade off as they choose a policy.
The characteristic pathology of ObamaCare is that government is making the choices. Consumers aren’t. ObamaCare means higher deductibles than many customers would choose for themselves. It means a narrower choice of doctors and hospitals than many would choose for themselves. These sacrifices, in turn, are required to pay for a broader package of benefits than many customers would choose for themselves.
The biggest, dumbest ObamaCare lie of them all was that these distortions were necessary to cover the poor and those with pre-existing conditions. Direct tax dollars could have been used to cover these users. Everybody else could have been left free to buy insurance in a market not distorted by mandates—exactly what a broad spectrum of health-care reformers (not just Republicans) have sought for decades.
As serious reformers have always known, the real political challenge has been unwinding inefficient and illusory favors directed at various classes of health-care users and providers. In the absence of these government-mandated distortions (including tax distortions), then the market would necessarily gravitate toward insurance arrangements that help Americans make better use of their health-care resources.
You can blame congressional sausage-making for the crummy excuse for reform Mr. Obama gave us. You can suspect that its creators were mostly interested in undermining what’s left of our private system of health insurance.
ObamaCare was not the product of a blue-ribbon commission or some body of learned advisers, recall. It was assembled in logrolling exclusively among Democrats in Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi, who is not known as a policy thinker.
But, lo, a seasonal miracle is occurring. As liberals are forced to take into account the actual, real people whom their schemes seem so characteristically ignorant of, a new chance for reform is opening up. Every piece in ObamaCare is being postponed or rewritten. The individual mandate is becoming a comatose letter if not a dead one. In the latest doomed innovation from the White House, insurers are being sandbagged by a new requirement to sell to older, sicker customers policies designed and priced for a healthier, under-30 crowd.
ObamaCare’s authors are being mugged by reality in real time, before our eyes. This is the most propitious development for health-care reform in decades.