No ‘conservative case’ for Obamacare
The conservative policy community has come down hard on a free-market think tank scholar who is claiming to make the “The Conservative Case for Obamacare.”
J.D. Kleinke, a resident fellow at the free-market American Enterprise Institute, wrote a controversial opinion piece for The New York Times Sunday which reveals his lack of understanding of the health overhaul law as well as of conservative health policy. That’s quite a feat!
Kleinke bases his case on the fact that the architects of Obamacare adopted the names of some of the sensible concepts and ideas that free-market analysts have been advocating for years – health insurance exchanges, accountability, individual responsibility, and consumer choice.
But Obamacare took these market-based labels and twisted them beyond recognition into a bureaucratic knot. The law gives little more than a rhetorical nod to free-market ideas, but Kleinke takes his readers no deeper in his analysis than these consumer-friendly terms.
Consider “health exchanges.” These were envisioned by conservatives to be on-line purchasing hubs to connect buyers and sellers of insurance, while aggregating funds from various sources to pay the premiums. The main goal of the exchanges was to give people buying health insurance on their own the same tax benefits as those receiving coverage from large employers.
“The architects of Obamacare appropriated the term and applied it to the monster of their own making: a government-run operation that will regulate insurance offerings like a public utility,” according to Nina Owcharenko, director of health policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “That’s nothing close to the free-market exchange envisioned by conservatives, where insurance sellers and buyers can negotiate freely.”
Yet Kleinke claims that Obamacare’s health care exchanges are models of market competition: “An exchange is as pro-market a mechanism as they come: free up buyers and sellers, standardize the products, add pricing transparency, and watch what happens. Market Economics 101.”
In fact, the exchanges are weighed down with rules, regulations, and government restrictions and crushed under a mountain of bureaucracy.
And that’s just one example: Let’s see if these other provisions of Obamacare sound conservative in any way, shape, or form to you:
- Obamacare’s 2,700 pages direct $2.6 trillion in new federal spending, operated by at least 159 new government agencies, with mandates that individuals, employers, and states tow the federal party line in a government overhaul of one-sixth of our economy.
- Medicare is used as a piggy bank to fund $716 billion in spending on new entitlements, and 15 unelected bureaucrats are put in charge of enforcing the cuts that will ultimately lead to rationing of care for seniors.
- The worst health care program in the country – Medicaid – was not reformed at all, allowing poor quality care and wasteful spending to continue while adding as many as 16 million more citizens to a program that threatens to bankrupt the states.
- There are 18 new taxes in the law that will drive up the cost of health insurance and health care while threatening to cripple key innovative health technology industries.
Ironically, many liberals are angry with Obamacare because they didn’t want any private sector involvement in health care delivery, preferring a government-run, single payer system instead. This grudging inclusion of consumer-friendly labels, one surmises, is why Obamacare’s backers argue that their plan builds on the free market and insist that the law absolutely, positively is not a government takeover of health care.
But liberals are the only ones who think that Obamacare has any vestige of conservative principles. It is in fact a government take-over of one-sixth of our economy that will destroy market forces, competition and consumer choice. Real conservatives know the truth.