I’m a conservative, and there’s something I don’t get about Obamacare.
Why am I supposed to hate it again?
Aside from the most obvious reason, the forcing of religious people to violate their conscience and pay for contraception — which is no small thing, and I will get to that — I’m trying to figure out what is so bad about the concept behind Obamacare. So let me break it down and see where I’m going wrong.
Obamacare argues that everyone should have health insurance as a personal and societal moral imperative. Everyone in their life will get sick and need care, and as a compassionate country we believe that people should receive the care they need.
Additionally, we are a country that believes — or at least did for a long time — in personal responsibility. Part of that personal responsibility is providing health care for yourself so that, God forbid, if something should happen to you, everyone else doesn’t pay for your irresponsibility.
What I find so bizarre about the conservative hatred of Obamacare is that many of my right-wing friends are exulting in the idea that young people are selfish and irresponsible and aren’t going to buy any health care. I actually feel a surge of anxiety when I hear this. I hear the voices of my parents when I got out of college, assuring me that the idea of not having health coverage whether I was employed or not was simply non-negotiable. For one thing, if something happened it could bankrupt the family, they told me. For another, I should not become a backpack for society to carry if I was suddenly hit with massive, unpayable medical bills.
Not having medical insurance was just out of the question. Whether I was working a job, freelance writing, being a bartender or living on the beach for a month, I was to have coverage. If I had to wash dishes or sell my records to pay the premiums, so be it.
Then, a few years ago when I was in my 40s, I was diagnosed with a serious illness that required some long term treatment. I looked with absolute shock and not a little relief when I got the bills and saw that my insurance was saving me tens of thousands of dollars. My final bill was about $5,000 — a fraction of a fraction of the total cost. I just recently finished paying it off. It wasn’t fun, but it didn’t bust me either.
When I was getting my treatment, I would sometimes notice the hospital staff talking quietly with other patients about money. These were the people who had no insurance. Because of them, my premiums went up about 100 percent. I was also told by a nurse to never change my insurer, because I now have a preexisting condition. One missed payment and they could drop me. I still remember getting a letter from my insurer telling me I was going to be dropped in ten days. My payment had gotten lost in the mail. From then on I switched on online payment just to make sure.
I live in Maryland, and this week, today, I can shop online for different insurance programs, which is the free market at work, and I can’t be turned down because of my preexisting condition, which is human compassion at work. Furthermore, all those vibrant and careless young people that conservatives like Eric Bolling and George Will celebrate for their recklessness have to put some skin in the game. They have to adopt the same code my parents taught me: your family or your country is not responsible for the risk that you could financially ruin them or live off the care of the state. That’s what liberals do.
So why am I supposed to hate Obamacare again?
A few years ago, the conservative journalist Fred Barnes observed that it might be a good idea to make catastrophic care mandatory for all Americans. That is, every citizen should be forced to have in health insurance in case of accident, cancer, AIDS — all the biggies. It was a great idea that my right-wing friends would have done well to put into law. No one would be forced to have coverage for things they didn’t want, religious groups would be left alone, and everyone would have skin in the game to help those who had something unforeseen happen, which is pretty much all of us.
Instead, conservatives focused on other issues, leaving healthcare to Obama. It’s what the president will be remembered for, and it may cost Republicans politically for the next 100 years. It will also irreparably harm America, even as it helps. Because the left has no limiting principle, and in fact has a totalitarian impulse, it’s not enough to provide insurance, you have to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for abortifacients.
That’s the tragedy of this, and America is so far left now that there may be no turning back. Conservatives are all over the media claiming that a program that calls for personal responsibility and caring for the sick, a program based on choice and the competition that comes from a free market, is socialism. This is not just petty, it’s illogical. For my entire life I have made sure I was insured, and when I actually needed it, I didn’t have to rely on family, friends, or society to help me get the treatment that made me better. Unlike a lot of people, including those wonderful uninsured young people today who will expect treatment if they get sick, I was responsible. And as a conservative I expect others to do the same.
So why do I hate Obamacare again?