Beyond Hypocrisy on Health Care

If you’re not a deep and regular reader of health policy wonkery, I very strongly recommend an Ezra Klein post today that succinctly spells out the extent to which opportunistic Republican attacks on Obamacare are undermining key tenets of conservative health care policy. There are three attack lines in particular that are wildly hypocritical: on high-deductible insurance policies (the very bedrock of what conservatives recommend in order to instill “personal responsibility” for health costs); on tight provider networks that deny consumers an absolute choice of doctors (another common goal for cost-conscious conservatives); and on private insurance exchanges (kind of indispensable if, as most conservatives want, you get rid of employer-based insurance and throw everyone into chaotic individual markets).

Republicans defend the first two attack lines as aimed not at Obama policies but at false Obama promises, but as Ezra notes, Obama mischaracterized the effects of Obamacare in these areas because theses GOP-endorsed approaches are very unpopular. So GOPers really are cutting off their noses to spite their faces by dramatizing and demonizing them, making them even less available than they were before to future Republican health reformers.

Since Republicans also oppose (though they pretend not to via hapless band-aids like state-run high-risk pools) the single most popular Obamacare prescription, the ban on preexisting condition denials, they really are painting themselves into a tight corner if they are ever forced to offer a serious agenda for reform. But that doesn’t seem to matter in this very extended season of hysteria about the Affordable Care Act.

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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.