November 14, 2014

Once again, MIT health economist Jon Gruber said a thing, and that thing he said has set off another round of right-wing stupid hair-on-fire nonsense. But unlike the last time, this thing he said is 100 percent true and not insulting in the least unless you happen to be a right-wing "I've got mine, screw you" type.

On March 11, 2010, Gruber gave a talk on health care policy at College of the Holy Cross. I highly recommend it for everyone to watch, because he breaks down the political and economic reasons for why single payer was not feasible right in the beginning, and why it looked as if there was never going to be any possibility of achieving universal coverage for people in this country. That's the first five minutes or so of his talk.

In the section of his talk concerning how the politics were playing out in the early days of the Obama administration, Gruber said this:

Third issue is, what about cost control? Now. Barack Obama is not a stupid man, okay? He knew, when he was running for President, that quite frankly, the American public doesn't actually care that much about the uninsured. in fact, a lot of the uninsured don't care about the uninsured. They think they're young and healthy and don't need insurance. What the American public cares about is costs.

And that's why, even though 90 percent of the bill is about insurance and 10 percent is about cost control, all you ever hear about is cost control.

Why this remark would have wingers' running around screaming is beyond me, given their 50 efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause now-insured people to be uninsured and without access to insurance and by extension, health care. Doesn't that confirm Gruber's statement?

When you hear Republicans talk about the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured and pre-existing conditions are at best, a mere afterthought. Why? Because the right doesn't care about the uninsured. They're actually offended at the prospect of having to pay higher premiums because now people with pre-existing conditions are covered and the limits are gone.

The cynicism of their fauxtrage is predictable. It wasn't coincidence that they decided to slime Gruber with their right-wing messaging machine just ahead of enrollment opening for Year 2 of the ACA. This is an orchestrated effort to suppress enrollment, just like they suppress voting or anything else that benefits real people in their real lives.

This time, Gruber said a thing that was 100 percent true, non-controversial and important. Don't let them twist this to pretend they give a damn when they don't.

Update: During the Q&A session (at about 1:04 in the full video), Gruber qualifies his statement by saying two really important things. First, he said we have a moral failure in this country when we refuse health care to less fortunate people, and it drives him crazy that the moral imperative alone isn't enough to motivate voters. And second, he said "I know President Obama and the others really do care about uninsured people...It's just that there's no political penny to be made in talking about it."

Once again, he's right. And as he pointed out, the bulk of the Q&A session was indeed about costs, not covering uninsured people.

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