Thursday, February 25, 2010

GOP misinformation and popularity

According to a Newsweek poll, Americans are opposed to Obama's healthcare proposal by 40 to 49%. But when asked about the specific proposals, they are overwhelmingly in favor of most parts.

So why are people in favor of the parts but when the parts are grouped together and labeled “Obama's plan” they dislike it? The only conclusion I can draw is that they are misinformed about what “Obama's plan” really means. Perhaps one can blame this on the Democrats not informing the public well enough, but I believe the problem is the GOP pushing misinformation.

For example, according to their purity test they support “Market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare”. By pretending that President Obama is proposing socialized medicine and the GOP is in favor of market-based reform they are lying. Although it is accurate to say that the GOP is opposed to socialized medicine, that's not being proposed. I would like to point out that I support “freedom and oppose GOP-style tyranny and slave labor”.

The Republicans have branded themselves as free market defenders and President Obama as a socialist. Following from that any proposal labeled “Obama's plan” is unpopular, no matter the actual content of the plan. It seems to me that the GOP has staked their future on opposing anything the Democrats offer, and if they offer something reasonable then the response is to pretend it's something else (i.e. “government-run healthcare”). If they can gain political points by increasing healthcare costs while more people become uninsured then that's the price they're willing to pay.

On a related note, one of the two specific proposals that the majority in the poll opposed is punishing those that didn't buy insurance. Health insurance is a risk pool. When the low-risk people don't join the pool then the premiums have to rise. If I had to share my health insurance only with people with chronic long-term illnesses then my premiums would rise drastically, and cause me to decide to opt-out, which would in term raise the premiums more and cause more sick people to leave in a vicious cycle. It's not debatable that the more high risk people in an insurance pool the higher the cost of coverage. The debate is how to have a healthy population, and while it is cheaper to only cover healthy people (by denying pre-existing conditions) it's not good enough. The only way to have an affordable comprehensive risk-pool is by covering both the high-risk and the low-risk. And the best way to ensure that both groups join the pool is by imposing a fine on those who choose opt-out in the form of a tax.

It's obvious one can't solve the problem of people being uninsured by simply mandating they become insured or pay a tax. That's why government subsidies are being proposed for those that can't afford it, that's why other proposals are being proposed that bend the cost curve and make it cheaper in the long run.

I once had a professor (an intelligent person, but misinformed in my opinion) roll his eyes and comment that “the founding fathers would roll over in their grave” if they knew about the idea of putting people in jail for not paying their fine. Unfortunately I think this is a result of the GOP claiming skewing the healthcare proposals, and skewing reality. Since the founding of the USA paying taxes hasn't been optional, it's necessary to pay taxes because it's necessary for a government to have money to operate. It's like speeding laws, I'd enjoy being exempt while everyone else has to follow the speed limit, but that's not the way it works. The idea that making people pay taxes is against the wishes of the people who founded the US government is being pushed, but it's untrue.

“Providing for the general welfare” is purposely a vague phrase intended to trust the people governing the country to do the right thing. Setting up a system where all (or almost all) Americans can afford to go the doctor is hardly a revolutionary socialist idea. Setting up a system where 43-47 million Americans are in a position where they don't have the option of going to the doctor is hardly providing for the general welfare, and it's hardly the morally right thing to do.

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