Paul Waldman, if you’ve never had the displeasure, is a card-carrying member of the loony left with a condition that might be called “conservative envy.” This latter attribute is apparent from the title of his book, “Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.”
Waldman has a great piece in today’s American Prospect, of which he is a contributing editor. When I say “great,” I mean “long,” as in 1,300 words. The advice the piece imparts to the floundering Obama administration is that for the president’s signature health care legislation to avert a slow, agonizing death, Team Obama needs to win over young invincibles. If you think you’ve heard all this before and that Waldman is coming to the topic about a month late, it’s because you’re right.
But Waldman’s article is different. It contains impressive-looking charts and graphs, and even a couple of Obamacare ads, one a video.
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The point of this hackneyed drivel is not, as the title promises, to explain the key to Obamacare’s future success but to take a few gratuitous shots at the right. After laying out the well-rehearsed argument that the Affordable Care Act has a built-in Achilles’ heel called “adverse selection” — which Waldman explains, fascinatingly, as a contingency “in which only those who are sick (and therefore expensive) get insurance” — he notes that the law’s health depends on signing up young people who are not sick (and presumably “not expensive”):
So it may have been inevitable that young people would become targets for both the law’s advocates and its opponents. A couple of months ago the Tea Party group FreedomWorks began a campaign to convince young people to remain uninsured, couching it in the symbols of rebellion by having people burn Obamacare cards (since there is no such thing as an Obamacare card, the organization printed some up so they could be burned). An organization funded by the Koch brothers created creepy ads to convince young people not to get insurance with visions of a gigantic Uncle Sam puppet giving young women pap smears.
The rest of the article is spent providing demographic information about these young people, including how many of them currently have health insurance (short answer is not many), how many of them consider themselves healthy (short answer is most), and how many have had three or more doctor visits or take a prescription med (again few).
What is lacking from this detailed analysis is what young people stand to gain by signing up for health care via a government exchange. Waldman is right that both sides of the ideological spectrum are attempting to influence so-called Millennials. But he never explains what the administration has to offer other than cool ads like this one.
As has been noted repeatedly by countless journalists dating back to the early days of the Affordable Care Act, the government has the weak hand in this argument. The administration has the unenviable task of convincing young, healthy people, who are the shallow end of the risk pool, to buy a product they don’t currently own or want so that the infirm and aging folks at the deep end can get government health care. Never mind that most of them already have government health care in the form of Medicare or Medicaid. Never mind either that the “tax” the government threatens ot levy on those who fail to enroll is largely unenforceable.
People like Waldman are too invested in their own prideful ideology to admit that the law is a clunker and should never have been passed. The same is true for Obama, though his legacy is riding on his ability to wake up and smell the dung. The only question is will he?
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