The president’s remarks Tuesday marked a hard pivot back to what Obamacare advocates do best: Tug at heartstrings. Monica, Julia, and Justine . . . You wouldn’t want to deny them health insurance, would you?
Of course not.
But for each of the compelling stories the president shared, there’s another story on the other side of the ledger. There’s Edie, and Debra, and Liz. We could swap anecdotes all day long, but these individual stories don’t provide a full assessment of Obamacare, where many will enter, and few will win.
As the president said himself, only about 500,000 people are currently set to gain coverage through both the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion.
While these enrollees may celebrate that they now have coverage, the more important question is this: What kind of health care will enrollees be able to access? Obamacare supporters are obsessed with coverage, often because they confound health coverage with health care.
Thirty percent of primary-care doctors don’t take Medicaid patients, and insurance-industry insiders have nicknamed the exchange plans “Medicaid Plus,” where reimbursements to doctors will restrict access in a form of backdoor rationing.
When a New York State Medical Society poll shows that only 23 percent of doctors plan to accept exchange plans, you have to wonder if we’ll continue to see these Obamacare enrollees in emergency rooms as their last resort. There’s an image for your heartstrings.
And what about all the demand? All the people who “stand to be helped” in the future? The president and other Obamacare supporters like to use market language to describe the law, even attempting to rebrand the exchanges as “marketplaces.”
But is it really fair to say consumers are busting down the doors to get a product that’s required by law? To imply there’s natural demand for a mandated product is misleading.
And finally, the Most Important Lie made an appearance again today, the lie most critical to keeping Obamacare in place: “They sure haven’t presented an alternative.” Hogwash. Every conservative think tank in town has a health-reform plan, and several Republican members of Congress have introduced plans in legislative form.
It’s as if the president sometimes forgets that opponents of Obamacare also experience the problems of our health system, where our friends and family faced (and continue to face) difficulty paying bills or obtaining the care they need. Being conservative doesn’t magically spare us from preexisting conditions, high costs, or coverage denials.
We have friends like Monica and Justine. We have plans to address their circumstances with targeted safety-net programs and free-market reforms that would benefit other consumers. But we’ll never get to consider those ideas if the president vows to continue fighting for a law that provides only hollow promises and precludes real progress.
— Hadley Heath is senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum.