New Republic Misleads Readers About Conservative Views on Health Care Reform

The New Republic has a "by the editors" editorial in the March 20 issue calling on the government to provide "universal health care." No surprise there.

What should be a surprise in a mainstream policy journal is that the New Republic was not honest enough to describe conservative health care proposals accurately, preferring to mislead readers into believing conservative proposals are intentionally designed to leave people of modest income with a history of cancer or diabetes (and presumably other serious preconditions) without medical insurance:

Insurance works best when large numbers of people share risk, so that modest premiums from a large number of healthy people cover the very high medical costs incurred, at any one time, by just a few. Enacting the conservative agenda would unravel such arrangements, shifting the burden of paying for care back from the healthy to the sick... Beat cancer? Have your diabetes under control? Well, no matter. The commercial insurance industry still wants nothing to do with you -- at least not at a price you can bear.

The right, in other words, has decided the problem with unaffordable health care is that it needs to be more unaffordable, at least for the people who need it most.

Not exactly. Influential mainstream conservatives support high risk health insurance pools for those who find insurance hard to acquire or exceptionally expensive; various subsidy mechanisms are supported to keep insurance for this group affordable.

No health care system is perfect. The New Republic could have offered its readers a serious critique of the conservative approach, but it instead preferred the convenience of demolishing the tired old straw man argument that claims conservatives actively aim to hurt the poor.

(For more details on what conservatives in and out of Congress believe on this issue, I recommend "A Good Start: The House Health Care Reform Bills," by Edmund F. Haislmaier, Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., and Nina Owcharenko, published by the Heritage Foundation in July 2005.)

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