The nature of our political discourse these days, unfortunately, is that everything must be painted in black and white. Obamacare is either a panacea or a total failure. Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic calls out such simplistic reasoning by pointing out that it’s going to be good for some people and bad for others.
RULE #4: ACKNOWLEDGE COMPLEXITY AND TRADE-OFFS.
The Affordable Care Act’s critics say premiums for people buying coverage on their own will actually increase. That’s true. The law’s defenders say tax credits offset the cost for many and probably most of those people. That’s also true. The law’s critics say some people will lose coverage from employers and won’t be happy about it. That’s true. The law’s defenders say most of those people will be better off, because they’ll be low-wage earners getting subsidies on the exchanges or they’ll be older workers who had stayed working because, previously, it was their only way to get benefits. That’s also true.
You may notice a theme here. Obamacare sets in motion all kinds of changes. They will typically affect different people in different ways—creating winners, losers, and all sorts of people in between. Are there more winners than losers? How much worse off are the losers? Those are the kinds of questions we need to answer if we want to make a judgment about the law. And the answers are rarely simple.
The other day on Facebook someone noted that Ezra Klein may be leaving the Washington Post and the first comment on that status update said, “Good. He’s been slamming Obamacare.” This is a perfect example of how partisan reasoning overrides rational analysis. Klein is one of the very best policy wonks we have and he generally avoids such simplistic tribalism, which means he is capable of acknowledging reality even when it may not favor the political side he belongs to.
Obamacare has been a great thing for me. I’m saving over $130 a month and getting much, much better health insurance. But I’m self-employed with preexisting conditions, which most others are not. Others may well see their premiums go up. There is no utopia here, every policy has tradeoffs.