The elites continually try to give us phony political frames to divert the public from the real issues in politics. We have an excellent example of such an effort in the NYT's Economix blog where Uwe Reinhardt tells us that the health care debate is about "Solidarity vs. Rugged Individualism."
Reinhardt's story is that we have the solidaristic liberal types who think that everyone should be put in a single pool. If someone ends up getting really sick, then the healthy among us will pick up the tab. These are the supporters of Obamacare or other plans to extend health insurance coverage.
Then we have the rugged individualistic types who are willing to pay for their own care, but don't want to be stuck with the tab for others. Their philosophy is that if someone gets sick, then they should just get out of the way. There is no reason to stick everyone else with the tab.
That's a great way to frame the central issue in the debate, except of course that none of the leading opponents of Obamacare openly expouses anything like the rugged individualist view that Reinhardt wants to attribute to them. Instead they say things like they want to use market mechanisms to extend coverage. We can show that their approaches will not work, but that is not the same thing as espousing Reinhardt's rugged individualistic view that people just should not get care.
And, there is good reason to believe that very few people actually hold anything like the rugged individualist view that Reinhardt has outlined here. There is a little program called "Medicare" which operates in a way that is 180 degrees at odds with the rugged individualist view that Reinhardt has described. Incredibly, 70-80 percent of Republicans strongly support Medicare. In fact, 70-80 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters strongly approve of Medicare.
This suggests that these people are not opposed to Obamacare because of their commitment to rugged individualism. It suggests that their opposition is gounded in something else -- perhaps confusion about the program, fear of a government mandate, perhaps dislike of the people who they see as the many beneficiaries -- but not a committment to rugged individualism.
If that is the case, the discussion of rugged individualism is a distraction from the real issues in the health care debate, perhaps front and center why health care in the United States costs twice as much as everywhere else. If the United States paid the same amount per person for its health care as Germany or Canada we would not be having a debate like this. Everyone would already be covered for less than we are now spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other government health care programs.
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