It shouldn’t be any surprise at this point that conservatives, especially those whose knee-jerk hatred of all things Obama, are rolling out the mischaracterizations of the Obama health care plan.
First, there is no health care plan on the table. Yes, Obama explained his ideal version of a plan during the campaign, and yes, if (like GW Bush) he had no respect for his limits on his Constitutioinal authority, he would implement that plan. But we all know he can’t and won’t do that, so talking about the specifics of that plan is pointless. He won’t get exactly what he wants; he knows that already, and so does anybody else who doesn’t simply screech “The sky is falling” every time he opens his mouth.
Second, even if he could simply establish a plan tomorrow, it wouldn’t be the “socialized medicine” that conservatives decry (which is too bad, because that system works and works well, occasional overhyped anecdotes to the contrary notwithstanding). As he said probably five thousand times during the campaign, under his ideal proposal, people who have insurance they like can keep it. Nobody will have to give up any coverage they decide to pay for. Or, put in a way that’s more bellicose than Obama ever said it but still true, not one individual’s choices about healthcare are limited under the proposal. This is the same bad logic that Christian conservatives apply to gay marriage, arguing that allowing other people to do something other than what they do risks an entire institution that has nothing to do with them. No marriage will be at risk if gay couples can marry; nobody’s health coverage will be at risk if more people are covered. It’s just an idiotic position, and I’m always amazed at the number of smart people I know who believe it anyway.
Third, as one of my Facebook friends puts it, no tax payer will be “paying for coverage” for people who are more affluent than they are. There are two principles at work in the Obama proposal. One is that the government should increase *access* to health care for people who can’t afford it. There’s nothing in the proposal that would fundamentally change the distribution of actual health care in this country–the industry isn’t being nationalized or anything even remotely like that. Second, because public health is one of the most important issues we face *as a nation*, it’s a widely shared *public responsibility* to make sure people who can’t currently afford health care should get it.
That’s all to say, nothing in the plan impinges on the freedom of anybody to choose what they *can* afford; it only calls on us to help people who can’t afford it. Gee, that sounds awful. How dare anybody want to make sure that kids and poor people can see doctors when they need to?
And finally, the evidence is very, very clear that increasing the healthiness of the population at large is good for *everybody*, including the wealthy and owners. When people are healthier, they’re more productive, less expensive to maintain in other ways, more participatory, happier. They do better in school, better raising their families, and on and on. Again, I can’t understand for the life of me why anybody opposes that.
I don’t believe that opponents of the plan (or the principles that underlie it) want poor people to suffer–except for pharmaceutical and insurance companies and other private industries that profit from illness. I do believe people who contend that all access to health care should be based on individual “effort” and “choice” have their heads buried in the sand. It couldn’t be more clear that public health is a public issue that effects all of us, and we all have a responsibility to make public health better. It also couldn’t be more clear that nobody is hurt by the Obama proposal except insurance companies that currently thrive on maximizing profit at the expense of public health. If people who can afford to keep paying insurance companies to deny them healthcare want to keep doing so, that’s their call.
But that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from establishing a healthcare system that actually takes care of people’s health first, and concerns itself with profits second–if at all.