Harvard Hates Conservative Features of Obamacare

One of the more routine examples of the Obama Derangement Syndrome is the extent to which conservatives seize on attack lines against Obamacare that would apply a fortiori to their own health care thinking, such as it is. This self-contradiction is especially apparent in the gloating conservative media coverage of the Harvard faculty revolt against a new health plan, as Jonathan Chait, shooting fish in a barrel, observed yesterday:

Conservatives have experienced Obamacare as a narrative of endless turmoil and failure, largely because conservative media systematically filters out positive reports while relentlessly hyping negative ones. The most recent grist for the machinery of doomsaying is a New York Times report that Harvard faculty are up in arms over changes to their health insurance, loosely related to reforms in the Affordable Care Act. The schadenfreude is flowing, from the Daily Caller to Jonathan Adler to Red State to Hot Air.

What makes this response funny, if not unusual, is that the reforms currently roiling the Harvard faculty are moderate versions of the reforms conservatives themselves not only have championed but continue to champion. The theory undergirding Harvard’s changes is that excessively generous health insurance is inefficient. If consumers bear zero cost, they will over-consume health-care services, thus driving up prices for everybody in the system. Harvard is imposing relatively modest increases in deductibles — a $20 fee for a doctor’s visit, and deductibles up to $250 a year for an individual. Faculty members accustomed to health insurance that covers 100 percent of their costs find a new plan covering merely 90 percent offensive.

I suspect the spectacle of people at Harvard joining their unhappiness with the principles of Obamacare is just too rich for conservatives to pass up. You’d think they might have noticed over the last few years that an awful lot of liberals would have preferred a single payer system to the hybrid represented by Obamacare, which was itself an attempted compromise based in part on prior Republican health care proposals. So what they are treating as some sort of “aha!” moment is really an “oh yeah” moment. But I don’t suppose conservatives are really thinking this stuff through very carefully, which is why they are at significant risk of mishandling the situation if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare subsidies in June and a lot more people than the Harvard faculty really have something to complain about.

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.