The Scapegoat

I’m betting this quote from National Journal‘s Sam Baker is the best line about Obamacare you’ll read for quite some time:

The Affordable Care Act has become the go-to scapegoat for just about everything people don’t like about health care, if not in the economy overall. The law is being blamed for trends, economic incentives, and basic realities that it did not create and that were part of the health care system long before President Obama was even elected.

There’s not a big difference between “how Obamacare works” and “how health insurance works”—and that, health experts said, is what makes the law such a convenient target.

That is very true. If you want a health care system in which the healthy do not subsidy the unhealthy, consumers have unlimited choice of providers, and there are never any nasty cost shocks arriving in the mail from an insurance company, then you’d have to abolish health insurance–including Medicare, by the way–altogether, and also put some heavily armed household financial analysts into hospital emergency rooms to make sure no one gets care without demonstrating their ability to pay.

The Affordable Care Act was aimed at some of the howling inequities in the existing health care system, including the ability of some providers to charge more or less whatever they want for questionable medical procedures or products. Blaming this law for any cost or inconvenience associated with modern health insurance is increasingly common and entirely wrong.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.