Invisible People

Conservatives are supposed to be pretty good at “cost-benefit analysis.” But you will notice that in any discussion of health care policy lately, many of them just can’t bring themselves to even notice that the initiatives they oppose (notably Obamacare with its Medicaid expansion, health care exchanges, and regulatory mandates) do actually provide health coverage to people in exchange for the money and the “liberty” surrendered. It’s also becoming hard to ignore the fact that Republicans at every level of government have pretty much stopped bothering to offer their own proposals to boost health care coverage–again making a problem they used to talk about as much as did Democrats a non-issue.

Consider the editorial denunciation the Wall Street Journal handed out to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last night (a pale echo, I am sure, of the anathemas they will soon hand to Ohio Gov. John Kasich) for going along with the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. It rants and raves about how Brewer came up with and justified her conclusion that the expansion wouldn’t cost the taxpayers of Arizona much of anything (other than their priceless heritage of freedom, of course!). But the only reference to beneficiaries of the policy is a complaint that Arizona’s existing Medicaid program is too generous (you know, to those people). You’d never known that by the state’s estimates 57,000 people currently without health insurance will secure coverage.

I really think every time conservatives attack a coverage expansion they should face a moral obligation to trot out one of the threadbare prescriptions of their own for dealing with the problem, whether it’s a high-risk pool or a Medicaid privatization scheme, or just come right out and admit they don’t give a damn about the uninsured. As it is, the uninsured have again become invisible people in a significant part of the national policy debate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.