Obamacare's Authoritarian Problem

Consumer choice trumps coercion every time.


You can't keep your insurance if you like it under Obamacare, because you're too ignorant to understand what's good for you.

That's the argument we've been hearing from a lot of folks on the left—an argument that pivots from "common good" to soft authoritarianism. President Barack Obama is all in, as well, claiming that he was merely guilty of forcing Americans to pick a "Ferrari" health care plan over a "Ford" one. (Is it really "picking" if you're forced?)

This is necessary because health care is not a product as a toaster is a product. (It took me only a few seconds online to find 613 different types of toasters, ranging in price from more than $300 to $15. They weren't subsidized, and I even could carry them across state lines. If health care were like toasters, we'd all be in great shape.) And as they do with anything that features negative externalities, technocrats will tinker, nudge and, inevitably, push.

"America doesn't have a free-market health care system and hasn't for decades," Business Insider's Josh Barro wrote in a piece titled "If You Like Your Health Plan, You Probably Shouldn't Be Able To Keep It." "With taxpayer subsidies so embedded in everybody's plan purchasing decisions, taxpayers have a legitimate interest in ensuring that health plans serve the public interest, not just private interests."

"Legitimate" is a malleable adjective. Just think of all the other areas of American society that are subsidized by taxpayers. Agriculture, higher education, the auto industry, the banking industry, professional sports, marriage—the possibilities are endless. Why is Washington allowing 20-year-old college students to work on business degrees when we need them to be engineers and factory workers? We subsidize, so why don't we decide?

CNN.com contributor Sally Kohn wrote a piece titled "A canceled health plan is a good thing." You're not getting what you want; you're getting what you need. Kohn—unsheathing the "public good" justification that opponents of same-sex marriage regularly use—failed to mention even once that the president explicitly assured Americans while campaigning for the Affordable Care Act that "if you like your plan, you can keep it." NBC News is reporting that the Obama administration knew that millions of Americans would probably lose their current health plans because of the implementation of the law, yet it went on lying.

It's almost as if some people believe lying is acceptable—even preferable—if the political outcomes are morally pleasing to them. Many Obamacare supporters, in fact, are beginning to sound as if they couldn't care less about process, the law, order, competence or anything that undermines the goal of putting your health care choices into more capable hands.

But even the more specific arguments do not stand up to scrutiny.

Admittedly, many people do stupid things that aren't good for them. And though I may not know exactly what I need, I probably know as much about what I need as Kohn or Obama—or even the 51.1 percent of the electorate that voted for the president. The reason Kohn and many of the others believe that Americans should be thankful for a paternalistic administration that en masse pushed us into (supposedly) top-shelf plans is that they don't believe in markets or they don't understand how they work—and in some cases, it's both.

Let me put it this way: There's this Chinese restaurant near my house. It's not the cleanest place, granted. And the folks who "work" there are, it seems, completely uninterested in my dining experience. The food is priced accordingly. But I love the dumplings. It's really all that matters to me. There's another Chinese place nearby. This one is newer. It has a friendly and attractive staff. It offers me clean silverware, and I walk on expensive contemporary tiles. All that classy stuff is nice, and it's also embedded into the price of my dumplings—which are no better. I don't want to pay for the tiles. I just want the dumplings.

In health care and other things, we often pick plans that offer us something we value above other things. Americans don't need all their plans to look the same. Maybe some of them like the customer service; maybe some like the stability of staying with one company for many years. This is why having 600 toasters in an open market is preferable to having a handful of choices in a fabricated "market" exchange—and why choice is better for us than coercion.

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  1. President Barack Obama is all in, as well, claiming that he was merely guilty of forcing Americans to pick a “Ferrari” health care plan over a “Ford” one. (Is it really “picking” if you’re forced?)

    Ferrari =/= Affordable. Isn’t this the same law that punishes/taxes “Cadillac” plans?

    1. You can pick what color the Ferrari is. That’s still picking!


      1. “See that Ferrari there? Well, you can’t get it because we haven’t redistributed all the wealth…yet. For now, you get to choose anything else in the Fiat family. The Maserati you say? Not that one. Anything else. Go ahead. It’s all there for you. Hm, Alfa-Romeo. Right. Please make a choice it’s all there for you! Lancia? Depends which model. Might we interest you in a Chrysler?”

      2. Vote for who you want…it’s a free dictatorship.


    2. Punishes Ferrari plans too. All the cost, none of the performance.

  2. The “you can keep it” lie was to hide the hidden tax of forcing people to overpay for insurance to hide the fact “we won’t raise your taxes if you make under $250K” was a lie.

  3. It’s going to be a midterm blood bath……..



    1. fish_remote|11.1.13 @ 4:58PM|#
      “It’s going to be a midterm blood bath.”

      I don’t see it.
      The proggies are inventing every excuse possible to blame the GOP, the media is parroting it, and people just don’t like being reminded they fell for some slick-talking, lying con-man.

      1. “The proggies are inventing every excuse possible to blame the GOP, the media is parroting it,”

        Yep, the same way they parroted every administration and Dem talking point about the so-called government shutdown – especially with their continual shrieking about debt default.

      2. I guarentee you there will be a lot of interesting discussions over Thanksgiving dinner this year.

        The holidays are a great time for reconnecting with friends and family. Many of whom are going to be people that just had their plans cancelled and their premiums jacked up.

      3. Now it’s getting to the point where you seriously have a possible social malaise on your hands. It’s not normal to go out in public and say “Obamacare is failing because Republicans wanted it to fail.”

        If you know or knew somebody like this in your life you probably ignored them and if you engaged them basically limited it to a basic “fuck off, you loser.”

        You don’t listen or associate with people like this. Society is good at shunning losers. Yet, here are all these progressives displaying a level of such stupidity, one has to wonder about the future.

        It doesn’t take a genius to see the GOP had ZERO to do with this mess and that they didn’t vote for it doesn’t translate into them being at fault.

        Man, these people are zeroes of mythical proportions.

  4. I’m a 30 year old man, forced to have maternity coverage in case I get preggers. But I’m sure these top men know what’s best.

    1. Yes, you’ll have maternity coverage, but if you get in a motorcycle accident and get taken to the wrong hospital, that’s on you.

    2. Of course. This is all about subsidizing people’s health care.

      If only pregnant women got maternity coverage, then pregnant women would just be paying for each other. Since they’re all roughly, equally pregnant, it would be almost like they were paying for their own pregnancies. And we can’t have that, now, can we?

      So, they need people who aren’t pregnant to get maternity coverage. And for men to pay the same as women. That way, non pregnant people can subsidize the pregnancies of the pregnant.

      It’s the same for mental health, and smoking cessation, and whatever other group wants someone to subsidize their healthcare.

      Trust us: this is all more efficient than having people pay for their own stuff, and trying to help out the poor in some way. We’re all in this together!

  5. …”soft authoritarianism.”

    “Soft”? What’s “soft” about telling you to spend the money or go to jail?

  6. The shitty thing is.

    That i’m a 21 year old healthy male who now has to pay out $200/m for a health insurance plan that i’m not going to use.

    Hell I already had free check ups with the catastrophic plan I had previously.

    My admittedly high deductible wasn’t going to bankrupt me, but it did save my ass in the event that something really serious did happen.

    1. Obamacare is quite literally the worst of both worlds.

      It’s not a free market system in the least and it isn’t a “free to me universal one”.

      1. InlineSkate|11.1.13 @ 6:27PM|#
        “Obamacare is quite literally the worst of both worlds.”

        It’s a toxic waste dump, but it’s Obo’s toxic waste dump!

  7. It’s almost as if some people believe lying is acceptable — even preferable — if the political outcomes are morally pleasing to them.

    What do you mean, “almost as if”???? It’s a fucking truism to the core. Fuck, it’s EMPIRICALLY true now.

    1. The first thing my father ever suggested I read was Karl Marx. He wanted me to understand why and how the Communists killed millions of people. It all starts with an acceptable lie.

  8. “With taxpayer subsidies so embedded in everybody’s plan purchasing decisions, taxpayers have a legitimate interest in ensuring that health plans serve the public interest, not just private interests.”

    First off this twit isn’t the least bit capable of proving that such a thing as “the public interest” exists at all.

    Second, the taxpayers – and I mean the 50% of the population who actually pay virtually all the taxes have a legitimate interest in keeping their own money and not having stolen to subsidize anyone else for any reason under any circumstance. That group of people are the ones who are doubly getting the shaft anyway. They nave to buy overpriced insurance so the insurance companies will charge other people less and they also get to pay taxes to subsidize those other people even more.

  9. Here’s something that might be more important to people than birth control pills: Out-of-network coverage.

    Event the “bronze” plans on the ACA are mandated to provide birth control pills at no extra change. But they don’t have to cover you at all if you wind up at an out-of-network hospital in an emergency.
    You have to pay out of pocket for that.

  10. Hey, guys what do you think of my Palin impression?

    As a classical liberal, the failure of Obamacare really only has one source: Bush. Bush, Bush, Bush, Bush, Bush, Bush, Bush. BUSH! But you Bush-lovers are too insane to see this. Remember when Bush made all those tax cuts, yeah well, that hurt Obamacare.


    1. Hey, I’m pretty sure Bush had something to do with it, too. Why didn’t you mention that?

  11. They want to make sure everyone has access to health care (I mean insurance). Why is that more important than food or housing?

    A fictional tale –
    My wife and I had a cozy Cape Cod. It wasn’t big, but there were only the two of us in our empty nest, and it was quite affordable. Then President Obama told us that our house was now designated as substandard housing and we would not be able to live in our house anymore. That said we should be thankful when they told us to shop around the new sub-division with street after street of, other than the external color and price tag, identical four bedroom, three bath houses. The only problem was the lowest price available was $2000 per month, and I just couldn’t afford that. Then they said it was the developer’s fault for taking away our old house, and since only six people bought any of the houses in the sub-division, they responded to calls for a single landlord system and now all of us (except for the party dignitaries) live in these rows of gray cinder block apartment buildings with one bathroom on each floor. I really did like my Cape Cod.

    1. Can I steal this?

      1. Go for it!

    2. Jacked to Facebook.

      Thank you.

      1. I just posted it on my own Facebook. A lib friend who the other day responded to one of my earlier Obamacare comments with “Well some of us DO need it” liked this post, along with another who I’m pretty sure is also a lib. Maybe this message is getting through.

        If Obamacare is so great, it can stand alongside “sub-standard” plans, it’s not necessary to outlaw plans people chose for themselves.

        1. I used to post the articles from Reason and tell people to read the comments, but some of the comments now are so on point (such as yours)I am posting them “stand-alone” as well. BTW- You got five likes so far … 😉

          1. well thank you! I have 9 likes on my own FB page.

            Unlike many here, I am a Christian conservative, but my son and a few friends are committed Libertarians and I have found that this is a site that I currently really enjoy reading .

  12. The best argument against socialized medicine is soon to become a reality. If this crowd feels you are too stupid to evaluate your health insurance , how much autonomy do you think you will have in treatment options?

    1. Along the same lines:
      This crowd *IS* to stupid to put together a web site to order insurance.
      How smart do you have to be to deliver medical care?

      1. Yeah, the arguments that “Obamacare is not a website,” and “this doesn’t mean the law is doomed, it’s just a temporary glitch,” ignore the fact that the government sucks at doing things. They suck at providing services that people want to use, they suck at building websites, they suck at personal service, they suck at efficiency, they suck at making our lives better. The website roll-out disaster is more proof of this, yet the blue team says that it doesn’t matter that we suck at everything, we’ll be great at healthcare!

  13. Dear Citizen,

    Don’t worry your pretty little head about what’s in your health insurance. I’ve had Top Men (and a few horse faced women) make sure that it has everything you need at a price I can afford. If you have trouble making your premiums don’t worry your neighbor has “agreed” to help you cover the cost.

    Again, don’t worry and you’re welcome.


  14. Just read this quote for the first time- “‘Pass it to find out what is in it’ is what the doctor said about the stool sample.”

  15. Just got an email from the “Truth Team” at BarackObama.com

    This one’s important:

    We’re hearing a lot of hot air out of Washington these days about some insurance plans that are changing — for the better — because of Obamacare. It can be pretty confusing to follow, and some people on the other side aren’t making it any easier by being intentionally misleading.

    Let’s be clear: What they’re talking about is the fact that if insurance companies decide to downgrade or cancel an insurance plan that doesn’t include the minimum consumer protections legally required, they must offer you an alternative plan that does include those protections — like the guarantee that you won’t run up against lifetime caps on coverage, you won’t have to pay for preventive care, and you can’t be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

    We think President Obama said it best on Wednesday — share what he said with your friends and family and help clear the confusion:

    Nobody is losing their right to health care coverage, and no insurance company will ever be able to deny you coverage, or drop you as a customer altogether. Those days are over, and that’s the truth!
    – President Obama, 10/30/2013

    IOW, those people didn’t really get dropped, that can’t happen anymore. They simply didn’t have all the protections that are now legally required and so are being moved to a shiny new plan.

    1. For some reason the let’s be clear part reminds me of the Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney Epic Rap Battles video

  16. “All that classy stuff is nice, and it’s also embedded into the price of my dumplings — which are no better.”

    ~ David Harsanyi

    Alas, David Harsanyi doesn’t understand how markets work as well. Costs have nothing to do with prices. Costs have everything to do with profitability.

    If firms could pass along costs with ease as Harsanyi suggests, then why does any firm go out of business? When running low on cash, why doesn’t the firm’s operator merely raise prices?

    There is one true, great, infrangible law for the whole of economics and one great axiom ? The Law of Prices and the Axiom of Profit. The Laws of Prices holds the winning bids of demand in the face of supply set the price. The Axiom of Profit holds the sum of sales must at least equal the cost of production or the producer goes to ruin.

    Potential and actual customers set prices, not businesses. Prices do not derive from costs. Costs are irrelevant to winning bidders who buy stuff. Prices arises from winning bidders of demand in the face of supply.

    Costs have to do with profitability and thus whether a producer can remain producing, that is, are the methods used by a firm sufficiently efficient such that the sum of sales gained at least equal the cost of production.

    If the fancy-tiled eatery fails to sell enough dumplings at prices put on offer, the proprieter of that eatery shall fail and go to ruin. Yet, it is customers who decide what they want to pay for dumplings.

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