Remember Julia? She was the hipster living in a dependency world, a poster child for President Obama’s reelection campaign and his worldview. Now she, not unlike many Americans, is dealing with the realities of the president’s health-care law. She’s got her rejection letter and the future is a little less certain than advertised. That’s the story the Independent Women’s Forum tells in a spinoff of the famous Obama campaign, this one not endorsed by the White House, but illustrating the implications of its policies. Hadley Heath is senior policy analyst at IWF and talks to National Review Online about “The Real Life of Julia.”
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why is Julia important to still be talking about?
LOPEZ: Who is she, really?
HEATH: Julia is meant to be a representation of the everyday American woman. She’s a mom, she has to balance her individual pursuits with the needs of her son, and she’s middle income. Even if women don’t personally identify with Julia, they know her: She’s our colleague, classmate, friend, or family member.
LOPEZ: Why, in the IWF version of her life, did Julia get a letter canceling her health policy?
HEATH: Because millions of Americans — perhaps as many as 7million — have already received such cancellation letters. Regardless of the administration’s extensions or exemptions, we believe that this is just the beginning and more and more men and women will be finding cancellation letters in their mailboxes. The point of Obamacare is to standardize insurance coverage, and along the way many Americans will lose the coverage they had and liked . . . despite assurances to the contrary. Changes have already come to individual insurance plans; large- and small-group plans are next.
LOPEZ: Why doesn’t it matter that she liked her plan? Wasn’t she supposed to keep it then?
HEATH: That was the president’s — now broken — promise. For Julia and the millions of Americans who have had their plans canceled this is a huge disappointment, and it’s a struggle for them to find replacement plans. But even for Americans who believe they are unaffected, this broken promise bears huge significance. It reveals that this health reform was never about helping especially disadvantaged or sick Americans in a targeted way, but instead requires a total restructuring of American health care that will affect us all.
LOPEZ: How can Julia best be helped by the government with health care?
HEATH: Julia just wants to make her own choices and feel confident about them. She wants options. Today, Americans are extremely frustrated that prices are not transparent, that our payment system is so complex and inefficient, and that government programs and regulations push costs ever higher. We would all be better served in a market-centric health system, where we are free to customize our insurance plans according to our risks and our preferences, where we could purchase plans from an insurer anywhere in the United States, and where we could depend on clear, reasonable prices for non-urgent, routine health services. There will never be a world where no one gets sick or incurs an unanticipated expense due to unforeseen circumstances, but government intervention should be reserved for fraud-prevention and safety-net cases, to help those who are truly vulnerable.
LOPEZ: The so-called contraceptive mandate has nuns who serve the poor fighting for their religious freedom. But why should Julia care about this conscience issue when she might be perfectly happy with what she views as “free” coverage?
HEATH: Women need to consider the other side of the ledger for all these supposedly “free” benefits. Nothing is free; in fact, the cost of contraceptives will simply be rolled into higher health-insurance premiums. All of these mandates for “free” first-dollar coverage is one of the reasons why premiums are going up under Obamacare.
Even worse, regulations like this one often come with unintended consequences. Have we stopped to consider the impact of such a mandate on the price of these drugs, and their availability? The impact on public health? Progressive proponents of this policy paint one picture — that more birth control will result in fewer births and therefore long-term savings to our health system — but this oversimplified story relies on too many assumptions and disregards all of the potential for adverse consequences. Why not just let women — and men — choose if they want these products and services? They’re free to access them.
LOPEZ: Do you expect “war on women” rhetoric to begin again as the media has to take more interest in the religious-liberty violations inherent in Obamacare?
HEATH: Yes, the Supreme Court’s announcement that it would hear the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases basically guarantees that the “War on Women” rhetoric will continue into 2014. Democrats will be depending on this issue to distract from Obamacare’s many other problems, but Americans won’t be fooled.
Some pundits have incorrectly read this story as a conflict between women’s interests and the interests of religious employers. This is a false depiction. Women are quite capable of obtaining birth control without a government mandate that all insurance policies must include first-dollar coverage. After all, 98 percent of sexually active women already have obtained contraception on their own.
If Democrats were sincerely interested in making “access” to birth control easier, they might consider deregulating the stuff and (as Governor Bobby Jindal has suggested), making birth-control pills available over-the-counter. But this isn’t about access, it’s about politics, and about using women as pawns in a faux debate.
LOPEZ: What’s a conservative vision for Julia’s life now and in her future?
HEATH: Glad you asked! In fact we hope to extend the Julia project to offer some solutions, so stay tuned! Julia deserves to live in a country made up of vibrant communities with plentiful choice created by competitive markets where everyone has opportunities to contribute and succeed.
LOPEZ: What’s a good message for those opposed to Obamacare in the new year?
HEATH: We need to make sure that the American people understand what is happening right now with our health-care system, remind them of how Obamacare was sold and compare that to what’s actually happening. The facts on the ground paint a clear picture: It just didn’t work. It can’t work. We can spend a great deal of money and energy trying to implement this law, but it wasn’t a botched execution that has made Obamacare a disaster for millions of Americans. The law is based on seriously flawed premises. Instead of focusing on expanding access to health-care services, it attempted to expand health insurance, and even then, it failed. Of course everyone wants our neighbors to have better health insurance and health care at a better price. But Obamacare won’t get us there. It may have been well intentioned, but sadly it simply will not work.
LOPEZ: What’s an “independent woman” to your mind?
HEATH: An independent woman is an independent thinker and someone who wants to be responsible for herself and her family. She’s not easily swayed by any advertising or marketing campaign, but weighs each issue reasonably and fairly. She believes in her own abilities and her own community to find solutions to the problems we face, and doesn’t believe her empowerment comes from any government program. The opposite of independence is dependence, not interdependence, where women and men, communities and families, can work together to improve our lives and the lives of others.