In case you missed it, Hot Air has the story of an appearance President Barack Obama made at a town hall meeting last week, where he was challenged on how affordable the prices for coverage really are under the Affordable Care Act. The president apparently chided the questioner for not realizing how important it is to get health coverage, even if it means making sacrifices to do so. From the Hot Air report, the president said:
“if you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.” He added that if a family member gets sick, the father “will wish he had paid that $300 a month.”
Before going further, let’s imagine if a Republican had said that — what an uproar would have ensued, with pundits and Democratic leaders all sharply pointing out that only a mean, coldhearted, out-of-touch fellow would make such a callous remark.
But let me swim against the tide here and praise the president for finally speaking the truth. Good health care coverage is expensive. Good health care, especially for serious and chronic conditions, is expensive. It’s rarely affordable. And he can’t wave a magic wand and make it so. The most any pol can do is institute reforms that make it less expensive, but that doesn’t mean it will be affordable, the way most folks define that word. Republicans would do well to remember that as they propose their own reforms. Speak the truth.
Now, back to our regular programming: Shame on President Obama and Democratic leaders for ever suggesting they could make health care affordable. I’ve preached this sermon before, and, as I said, I think it’s important for conservatives to speak this truth, as well. Any major health care reform — that offers more care to more people — will have a cost associated with it. People will pay in either higher taxes, higher premiums or…rationed care. Or a combination of all of the above.
We live in a time when we are blessed with many tests that can help health care providers pinpoint diagnoses without invasive surgery, with many procedures and treatments and drugs that will save lives or improve the quality of them. Unless we mandate that all these must be offered for free — and doing so will only make them scarcer, rationing this precious care — they will still remain expensive.
But, like the president, I believe we need to make responsible choices in life, reprioritizing our financial lives to pay for things like health insurance. Where I diverge from the president is in forcing people to make the same choices by limiting the array of possibilities they can choose from. Before the ACA, a low-income family could choose a policy with lower premiums, rolling the dice on a high deductible and coverage. But at least they had something that covered catastrophic care. Now, they don’t have that choice. In the name of affordability, the president and his allies have made coverage unaffordable for many.
Now, let me add this qualifier: I know, from stories I’ve read and anecdotes I’ve heard, that some people are finding options in the ACA that they like. Bully for them, I say! But is making care less expensive for a small subgroup really worth the pain of making it less affordable for a larger group? Because that seems to be the ACA’s effect: helping a few while causing pain for the many. It’s not affordable. It’s not even painless. And at last, the president is speaking the truth on that.