On Monday, Vox’s Editor in Chief, Ezra Klein, published a smear piece titled “American health care can be free market or it can be cheap. It can’t be both.” Demonstrating once again that, even though Republicans are a mess with all their infighting, Democrats still don’t know what they’re talking about in regards to healthcare.
Why don’t they understand it? Well, there a number of reasons.
Right off the bat, and throughout the article, Klein conflates (whether accidentally or on purpose)the terms health insurance and health care. For example, at one point, while criticizing the AHCA – something Klein and I actually agree on – he says “Americans don’t want a health care system where 50 million people go uninsured and the remainder struggle with higher deductibles and sparer coverage.” He insinuates that a healthcare system is only as good as your insurance. Let’s get something straight; having insurance, whether it is expensive or not, has absolutely no bearing on the level of health care you may or may not receive.
The article goes on and on about health insurance problems without ever even considering the idea that actual free market solutions would bid prices down to a point where insurance was only necessary for what it is intended for; catastrophes.
I don’t use my car insurance for oil changes, and I don’t use my homeowner’s coverage to paint my walls. One can only imagine what their prices would be if we did. Unfortunately, we’ve become so accustomed to our broken health system, the idea of not using insurance for a physical is a shock to most people. The free market advocates I’ve encountered – most Republicans don’t fall in this category – don’t care about how many people are insured, because we’d rather see prices for health care become affordable, not just your monthly premium.
Which brings me to my next point.
Klein, throughout this entire article, never actually discusses the shortcoming of the free market. Not once. Minus the title, his article reads more like a hate-piece against republican solutions. He only uses the guise that it is the free market at fault to quietly steer his base towards the idea that more government is necessary, through confirmation bias. The fact is, our current system is broken, on this I agree. It is not, however, broken due to any free market principles.
Unlike Republicans – who claim our health system was peachy before Obamacare – Klein might actually agree with many freedom lovers, who say the system was disgraceful, even before Obamacare.
Let’s not duplicate what Klein has done here though, and simply distract the reader from reality in order to squeeze a narrative into their heads. At no point in his arguments– if you can call them that – does Klein explain why market principles (supply and demand, price system, etc.) will be ineffective or injurious to the healthcare market. Klein spends the majority of the article building on the idea that spending a “bit” more than we do now can yield much better returns than we are currently seeing. Never considering that $30 trillion in unfunded liabilities is too much already. All this eluding to the fact that it’s a complete juxtaposition to the title of the article.
While the implication throughout is that the underlying issues are caused by the free market aspects of our current system; even Klein never explicitly makes such an idiotic, and indefensible claim. He deflects from the subject with flawed data about the NHS in the U.K; with its record high deficits, and doctors striking from poor compensation and conditions. As well as, Singapore’s semi-socialized healthcare market. A market in which the only shred of hope for viability relies on its hush-hush, parasitic relationship to Singapore’s massive growth in wealth. Growth which is due in large part to – you guessed it – the embrace of the world’s most free market policies.
Don’t let these points deter you, though. As Klein says, we must spend more money in order to spend less. It’s is no wonder he’s relying on Paul Krugman to justify a claim like that. The Krugman who currently has an entire podcast, made up of multiple economists, solely dedicated to debunking all the outlandish claims he makes in his New York Times column each week.
Klein uses Krugman’s recent article, evaluating the CBO reports regarding future healthcare spending. However, there are two problems here.
First, Klein decides to cite the report when it says Obamacare expenses came in under their original estimates. But, he leaves out the statistic that says millions of people will be uninsured as a direct result of the mandate being rolled back. Now, why would he leave that out? It seems like a good point to attack the AHCA over, right? except that, he, like us, realizes that means millions of people, when left with the choice of enrolling into Obamacare or forgoing insurance altogether, will voluntarily choose the latter, rather than pay for the “relatively cheap” plans, as Klein claims them to be. We can’t have people choosing that, can we?
The other problem here is that we are expected to take Krugman’s evaluation as the gospel truth. Never mind the fact that, not too long ago, back when the CBO said things Krugman didn’t agree with, he wrote extensively on why we shouldn’t listen to them, in his column titled: “The Politicization of CBO Begins.”
You aren’t supposed to see that though, so let’s keep moving.
Klein says that we would be much better off if we just allowed ourselves to be subjected to government price setting. I won’t even get into asking how he is going to help whatever agency is charged with setting prices, while simultaneously sidestepping the benefits of a freely moving price system. Instead, we’ll simply point out the hypocrisy in his idea. See, Klein had written a number of articles that were rather doubtful of the Trump administration’s ability to govern: here, here, and here. So, why would he now call for them to control prices of – what he says – is the most crucial goods and services human beings require?
That’s the crux of the article; he doesn’t. He wants his merry little gaggle of cronies to control it. Only then, will your benevolent leaders be able to solve, what has been an ongoing problem for more than fifty years now.
Do you see? It’s never a step in the direction of freedom. Even with Klein facing down the ineptitude of the Trump administration, he can’t admit that, perhaps, one agency with no repercussion for its failures, may not be able to accurately predict proper prices for millions of people; much less, more accurately then those people could themselves.
No, instead he has to smear the idea of freedom of choice for you and me through cherry-picked data and strawman arguments. If Klein is convinced that price setting is good in healthcare, why not any other markets? Should government agencies be set up to decide what you pay at Starbucks? Or how much your television costs? He never says anything concrete as to why, other than to just point out its importance. That’s great Ezra, but I’d die much faster from starvation, if food suddenly became too expensive, then I would from a lack of healthcare. But, I don’t see you urging that the government is qualified to set my local grocer’s prices for him. Or perhaps that will be in your next article. I rather doubt it though.
Featured image: AP Photo/Dustin Wayne Harris/PatrickMcMullan.com/Sipa USA
Thomas J. Eckert
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