Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial in the New York Times illustrating the need for Obamacare. John, from Oregon, faced a devastating illness, lost his job, lost his health coverage, and couldn’t find a doctor who would treat him. Michelle Malkin and various readers of the Times have taken the story apart. It turns out that John could have been covered under his wife’s health insurance plan; there’s a law preventing insurers from imposing “pre-existing conditions” limitations on spousal coverage. John was already covered under Oregon’s Medicaid plan, something Kristof pointed out in the original article, indicating that any problem here, if there is one, is a problem with a government health insurance program. Doctors have pointed out that public hospitals are required to see patients regardless of their ability to pay. Finally, it turns out that John has in fact been a patient seeing top surgeons at Oregon State for three weeks– well before the article was published!
This reminds me of the Democrats’ case study on expansion of the SCHIP program—a family where both parents worked, the children went to a private school whose tuition was $20,000 for each child, the father owned his own architectural firm, the family lived in a house worth more than $400,000, and the boy taken as the example was already covered anyway!
If there’s an urgent need for health care reform, why is it that the Democrats can’t come up with even one convincing example that makes their case?
I’ve talked about this phenomenon before. The elites in Washington, New York, and elsewhere who craft policies, write editorials, write laws, propose regulations, etc., don’t know any people who are actually in the conditions they talk about. They don’t know anyone who lacks health insurance. They don’t know anyone who knows anyone who lacks health insurance. (Except, maybe, their maids—but they never talk to them anyway.) They have no idea that you can go to a public hospital and get treatment, even if you don’t have insurance.
Worse, in this case, they appear not to talk to anyone in the health care industry—doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, specialists, etc.—unless they happen to be political activists as well. Doctors I know talk a lot about the problems of the health care industry. The problems they worry about and the fixes they recommend, however, bear almost no relation to the Democrats’ proposed reform. There are real problems about insurance companies dropping people from coverage, for example, when they are diagnosed with a serious illness. There are real problems about reimbursement rates, about malpractice lawsuits, about the burdens placed on hospitals, about the inefficiencies of the present system, and about prescription drugs. But Obamacare addresses none of them in a constructive way; indeed, it would make many of them worse.
Advice to Nicholas Kristol: Hop a train to the unfashionable parts of New York City and talk to some people who don’t have health insurance. Talk to some doctors, nurses, administrators of clinics. Don’t tell them your ideas; listen to theirs. Then, write about that. Talk about health care as it actually exists in this country, not as you imagine that it must be.
UPDATE: The more I think about this, the more I think that we’ve all been missing the real story. Where do these examples come from? Where did Kristof hear about John, anyway? I’d love to know the genesis of this, the SCHIP story, and other similar bad examples.