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Pyle: Anti-Obama dogma doesn't add up

Published December 14, 2012 5:02 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and value of nothing." — Oscar Wilde

Over the years, American progressives have altered the great Irish wit's aphorism to say that it is a conservative who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We could use a few more real conservatives right now. Or some cynics. Because so many of the political leaders who masquerade as conservatives clearly do not know the price or the value of anything.

Case in point: Obamacare.

Utah is not the only state where leaders are gagging on portions of the Affordable Care Act, like the idea of launching online health insurance exchanges. Or expanding eligibility for Medicaid to families living at as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty level. They fuss about the money it will cost and the fact that it will lead to, in the words of Gov. Gary Herbert's letter to President Obama, "more reliance on public programs."

What Herbert and many other Republicans can't grasp is that, when it comes to health care, public programs are the most cost-effective way to provide health insurance to the millions of Americans who now lack it. That's why Nevada's Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has agreed to expand Medicaid in his state. Because it adds up.

The private sector's attempts have failed again and again, with skyrocketing prices for both individuals and employers far outstripping the rate of inflation. The Salt Lake Tribune reported last week that health insurance premiums for Utahns jumped 61 percent between 2003 and 2011, while household income grew only 20 percent.

And Ezra Klein's Wonkblog notes that the cost of health care is spiraling even as the number of health care services — everything from office calls to operations — has declined.

It is not fiscal prudence that wants to protect the status quo from the reforms of the ACA. It is mindless dogma. The same dogma that led the same people to their dead solid perfect prediction that Mitt Romney was going to be elected president. In a landslide.

Now that Mitt's pumping his own gas on the way to Disneyland, other Republicans still insist that the goal of Obamacare — which is the goal of every civilized society that doesn't go by the initials U.S.A. — is somehow bad. That covering all, or nearly all, Americans with health insurance violates their irrational belief that people should not depend on the dad-blamed gubment for anything.

The fear of providing for the undeserving poor has even infected the Utah Hospital Association, which is hinkey about the expansion of Medicaid even though that is the best chance they will ever have of actually getting paid for their services.

But people who run the numbers (like the people who correctly predicted the outcome of last month's election) have concluded that the expansion of Medicaid is a fiscal winner.

The Medicaid expansion, funded at 90 to 100 percent by the feds, with the subsidies that will allow more small businesses and individuals to buy insurance, means people can afford to have their ailments treated before they grow into more deadly and expensive ills.

It means people who really need emergency room care aren't tripping over poor sick folks who are only there because there's nowhere else, breathing their germs and overtaxing their stressed-out doctors.

Meanwhile, the Harvard School of Public Health reminds us, people do die for lack of health insurance. That's because the "free" (actually cost-shifted) stuff they do in emergency rooms isn't health care at all. It's trauma care.

And that's something that should offend both our cost-benefit analysis and our human values.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, is just waiting for 56 years of unearned good health to collapse on him. Email: gpyle@sltrib.com Twitter: @debatestate






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