Health insurance

Who Is Pretending to Fight Insurers: Obama or Me?


The New Republic's Jonathan Chait says the benefits that Obama's health care plan would provide to insurers are all in my imagination. Apparently I have let my emotions cloud my judgment on this matter. You see, "libertarians really like to think of themselves as scrappy underdogs and are far less comfortable [than conservatives] with the idea that they're aligned with powerful economic interests." That's why "libertarians have an unusually strong emotional investment in the idea that their opposition to health care reform is a way of standing up to powerful interests like the insurance industry."

By contrast, progressives like Chait have no emotional investment whatsoever in the idea that their support for health care reform is a way of standing up to powerful interests like the insurance industry. They are not at all reluctant to admit that an ideologically simpatico president could be doing favors for an industry while pretending to fight it, or that the reform process might be twisted to favor special interests.

Chait is right that America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) opposes the latest version of health care reform. But AHIP is completely on board with the two elements of Obama's plan that he presents as sticking it to insurers: the requirements that they cover people with pre-existing conditions and that they stop setting rates based on customers' health. The industry is happy to follow those rules as long as it has enough young, healthy policyholders to subsidize care for older, sicker ones—something Obama has promised to deliver through a requirement that everyone buy insurance. Not surprisingly, AHIP also supports Obama's goal of preserving the anti-competitive system of employer-provided health benefits.

As Chait puts it, "it's certainly true that insurers were negotiating in good faith with Democrats for a long time." To the extent that insurers have turned against Obama's plan, it is because they do not think it will do what he says it will. They worry, for example, that the penalties for failing to buy health insurance are not high enough to conscript the new, unwilling customers they need. But if Obama's plan worked as advertised—bringing insurers "30 million new customers" while supplying all the revenue necessary to cover people who currently can't afford insurance—it would hardly represent a threat to insurers' bottom lines.   

Although I think it's important to make the point that libertarians are pro-market, as opposed to pro-business, I am happy to take the side of "powerful economic interests" when they are right. That is not the case with insurers who are willing to endorse a major expansion of the government's role in health care, including an unprecedented federal intrusion into individual decisions about medical coverage, as long as their interests are accommodated.

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  1. We libertarians relish our great power over others. Really, it’s the whole point of our existence.

    1. You said it ProL. I’m rubbing my hands together and laughing diabolically, right now, because of all the power coursing through my veins.

    2. I have learned to convert the power coursing through my veins into a piercing, psychic stare that I use to light my cigars.

      Well, actually, I use it to light the hundred-dollar bills that I use to light my cigars, but you know what I mean.

      1. Have you figured out how to focus the beam through your monocle yet?

        1. I have a backup laser installed in my top hat.

  2. Gee, you have to register or subscribe at TNR to leave a comment. For shame.

  3. Journalists are amazingly stupid an uneducated. That comment by Chait shows what can only be described as breathtaking ignorance. That is bad enough. But what is worse is that Chair so ignorant he doesn’t even realize it. I am sure he thinks he is wonderfully knowledgeable about small government political theory.

  4. Just like with the Cap-and-Trade madness, libertarians are usually the ones standing in front of the bus yelling stop because they know that whenever the government proposes such massively sweeping business regulation in order to save “the environment/children/daft/addled/poor/too lazy to get a job” the ones who end up paying for it are not the businesses.

    We are well aware that any effort to expand health care to include more people who already won’t/can’t/don’t care enough to pay for it will cause those of us who do pay for it to end up paying more. Businesses aren’t going to suddenly lower their costs to make everyone fit. They will simply increase their costs to pay for the new regulation the government will force upon them.

    That’s why Citibank and Bank of America love the new business regulations because it will destroy their competition. Big energy companies will whine about cap-and-trade but they will simply pass the cost along to subscribers.

    What annoys the crap out of me is that people like Chait think libertarians are rubes because we don’t like it when Obama lies to us about “lowering health care costs” or his “green energy jobs” BS.

    Just last week he stated we won’t mind paying more for our premiums because we will get “better service”.

    And yet people still support him. Keep laughing Chait, every time Obama opens his mouth, tens of thousands of new libertarians are born.

    I hope.

  5. lol
    Progressives are either too stupid or too smart to try to understand Public Choice reasoning behind libertarian analysis.
    You guys remember when Wal-mart came onboard the Health Care Reform bandwagon, and naive goofs like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein analysed this development with this amazing brilliance: Walmart has a change of heart! They are not evil anymore!

    In their limited imaginations, anyone opposed to their policies can only be motivated by greed, or bought over by powerful interests, and anyone supporting their policies obviously has GOOD INTENTIONS regardless of whether they are powerful interests.

    1. Liberals are incapable of understanding that large corporations can game the government. In liberal world, Corporations are evil and all knowing and a threat to the Democracy, yet are somehow powerless to influence or game a properly conceived and run government program.

      1. John what the hell are you talking about.

        Your opinion on how liberals think is always so comically distorted, it’s almost like you’re getting it direct from Sean Hannity rather than a careful observation of liberals. I know, you’ve never heard of the guy.

        1. Tony, I leave it to you and MNG to tell us all about Sean Hannity and Rush. You seem to obsess over their every thought and action. I often wonder how you find time to become such experts on their thoughts.

          Beyond that, if you are going to respond to a point, at least try to do something besides say “that is not true”.

          1. I’ve always wondered that too John. Progressive’s always obsesses over Limbaugh and Hannity and the like, as if being able to point out that they are idiots somehow makes progressives smarter than everyone else. A lot of times when I get into a discussion with a left winger, their arguments always end up something to the effect “You sound like Rush,” and then it ends there. It seems they know more about these guys than I do!

  6. AHIP pays my LP dues. Don’t they pay yours?

  7. The insurance companies may be having second thoughts, but Big Pharma* is still on board.

    For weeks, Democrats who support the health care legislation have struggled to compete with the opposition. A disparity in radio and television advertisements, along with calls and mailings, meant that the lawmakers Mr. Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were trying to persuade to vote for the measure were taking a pounding in their districts.

    The new money from Pharma, the association of drug makers, as well as contributions from labor unions and other groups helped equalize the advertising fight. This week, officials said, the groups backing the legislation will focus extensively on the insurance industry with this theme: “When insurance companies win, you lose.”

    * Drug manufacturers are no longer evil. They are doing their damndest to control rising health care costs even at the risk of hurting their own bottom line. The selfless magnanimity of the drug makers is truly inspiring.

    1. “When insurance companies win, you lose.”

      That is why we are going to make it a crime not to buy their product.

  8. Mr. Chait’s commentary was singularly weak, and suggests a surprising degree of naivete’ for one who, presumably, must care for himself.

    This reminds me of bargaining with the Union – they often have to show a different “face” to their membership to pass an agreement. Public displays of anger and disagreement during bargaining, stories of “you should have seen what they wanted – look what we ended up with”. The best are geniuses at it.

    The sophisticated chairpersons know how to play that game to great effect – and the smart mgt person will just let them. It’s all about what you end up with, not who gets credit or blame for getting there.

    Insurance companies would naturally be opposed to more regulation of the market, right? Especially the things Jacob S notes. And of course a libertarian-leaning person is emotionally linked to…whatever Chait was trying to argue there (project much?).

    Only the naive think everything is as it seems…

  9. Does Chait actually *know* any libertarians? Other than the ones he wins arguments with all the time, in his head, that is.

  10. The Obama health plan includes a mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance whether they want to or not.

    There are only two reasons why this requirement would be there:

    1. The insurance companies want it there.

    2. Progressives think it’s a good idea.

    So which is it, Chait, you fuckwad? You only get to pick one. It’s either there solely because the insurance companies got it placed there, or it got there without insurance industry input, because progressives love it and want to go to there.

    Who own da Chiefs on this one, Chait? Do the progressives own the individual mandate, or do the insurance companies? Decide.

    1. Ownssss, ownsssss!


    This is the creepiest picture I have ever seen.


      Sorry, Sugar Freed the link.

  12. John, your link is still broken

      1. Still. Broken.

        Try typing a space after you insert the link. I think that converts it to a live link.


      It doesn’t like the link for some reason

      1. Eject John! Eject!!!

      2. You know that links work in the preview mode, right?

  13. Standard procedure for the left: lie your ass off.

    No worries though as the left have no ethics they automatically have the high moral ground so it is all justified for the good of all.

  14. It may bring the insurance companies 30 million more customers but those customers may have a host of pre existing issues and the insurance companies will have a premium cap. Eventually the system will collapse because private business should not be tampered with by the Government. Youtube to MP3

  15. powerful economics interest brought by health insurance is the fatal lure.

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