Friday, January 24, 2014

McArdle On Whether Obamacare Is 'Beyond Rescue'

Megan McArdle reports on a formal debate about Obamacare. (via Maggie's)

Let me acknowledge that I have not followed it much in the last year.  I had concluded previously that the program was likely to provide benefit for some people, but at a cost that was disproportionate to its virtues. When the rollout failed even worse than that I paid some attention, worrying that even my cynical estimate might prove over-optimistic. McArdle clearly knows more policy and probable outcomes than I do, and I wouldn't be able to bring a credible challenge to most of her points.  However, that is likely true of her opponents as well. Neither could I hold the field against their knowledge for more than a minute or so. I also grant that much of the popular criticism of the program ignores the free health care that people sign their kids up for while complaining that they have to pay in for themselves. It's okay to count that as a net loss, but you have to acknowledge both sides of the balance pan before coming to that anti-Obamacare conclusion. (In NH it's called Healthy Kids, and some subsidy is given right up to some pretty high levels of income.)

Some things I do know, however, and they worry me.  (Though I was oddly comforted by her impression that not everything would collapse.) First, that a credible argument could even be raised this early is damning.  Most critics forecast - including McArdle - that any collapse would be a few years out. Second, the comments at the link are not impressive, but there is a difference.  The anti-Obamacare commenters seem to have less vocabulary, poorer phrasing, and move to general criticisms of the president pretty quickly; but the pro-Obamacare comments include way too many that are not on point, but merely touch emotionally on related items: that having health care is a good thing, so people opposed to this program are morally lacking; that other countries like their programs pretty well.  This legislation-by-feeling is dangerous stuff.

But the worst is the third.

"The administration and its supporters have been counting on the coverage expansion to put Obamacare beyond repeal. So what if the coverage expansion is anemic, the plans bare-bones, the website sort of a disaster? It’s a foundation upon which we can build -- and now that so many people have coverage, the thinking goes, Republicans will never dare to touch it. The inevitable problems can be fixed down the road." 

This was the accusation of fundamental dishonesty that was brought from the start. It seems to be emerging as true. I continue to suspect that there is a political divide, that on the left people say "we do care about dishonesty and deceit in our politicians, but we expect it, and it's not the most important issue to us; if things turn out as we like we think everyone should move on" - while on the right people are much more bothered by such character flaws.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

If a lot of people who couldn't get covered before were now covered, even I would be given pause in calling for repeal. Speaking, however, as one of the many whose coverage was destroyed and will cost much more to replace, I remain infuriated that the number of people who lost coverage is still vastly outweighing the number who gained it.

Combine that with the lies and the unsustainable demographic mix of the newly insured, and I think the law has insurmountable problems. Which is not to say that I have any confidence it will be repealed. The best I hope for is gains for conservatives next November. And yet there are distressingly few voters with any notion why Obamacare doesn't work, which means they're as likely to support a worse alternative as a better one.