Weiler: Critics of Health Bill Describe the Status Quo
Written by: Jonathan Weiler
Writing for The Huffington Post, author Jonathan Weiler parses criticisms of Obama’s health bill, arguing that the nightmarish scenarios that they imagine under government health care are already happening under our current system. Weiler is about to publish a book on party polarization with us: Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.
Recently, Digby wrote a post about the pathological tendency of right-wing activists to insist that their rights are being trampled while they themselves push to shut down town hall meetings intended to inform the public about health care. Death threats, violence and other efforts to close down debate are coming from the same people who insist that a fascist tide sweeping America is strangling their right to air their views. About this phenomenon, Digby writes:
I know. This kind of full-on psychotic projection is disorienting and weird. I’ve never been very good a dealing with this particular wingnut tactic and I don’t think anyone is.
That post got me to thinking more prosaically about the main right-wing talking points against health care reform. What is striking about those talking points is that every horror that the right-wing alleges is a feature of Obamacare is actually a mainstay of American health care as it currently stands. Below are five broad claims against Obamacare that fit this pattern.
1) Claim: that Obamacare will entail runaway costs, exploding our deficits. Reality: We currently spend far more than any other OECD country for health care relative to GDP. And every significant proposed cost-control initiative — like a public option, or allowing the government to actually negotiate lower prices with the pharmaceutical industry — is being attacked full-on by opponents of reform. There is simply no serious debate about whether our insanely convoluted, privately-based insurance system is far more expensive than any comprehensive single-payer system would be.
2) Claim: Obamacare represents a frontal attack on Americans’ freedom, including their freedom to choose the health care that is best for them. Reality: The current market for health insurance in the United States is, for most Americans under the age of 65, a state-by-state market. And, far from being characterized by competition and choice, most states’ health insurance markets are highly concentrated, with near-monopolies in numerous states. A public option would, in fact, clearly give many Americans more choice and more freedom than they have now, because Americans’ fear of losing health insurance constrains their job mobility.