Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are both justifying their votes to give massive tax cuts to corporations and rich people while crippling Obamacare with a repeal of the individual mandate with the lie all Republicans use: Repealing the mandate is just giving their constituents more freedom. That would be the freedom to go without health care—but they don’t want anyone to hear that part.
Maybe economist and health policy expert Matthew Fiedler can debunk the myth of “freedom” for them.
The first flaw in this argument is that it assumes individuals bear the full cost of their decisions about whether to obtain insurance coverage; in fact, one person’s decision to go without health insurance coverage shifts costs onto other people. Notably, CBO has estimated that the departure of healthy enrollees from the individual market spurred by repeal of the individual mandate will increase individual market premiums by 10 percent, causing some in that market to involuntarily lose coverage and causing those who remain to bear higher costs. In addition, many of those who become uninsured will end up needing health care but not be able to pay for it, imposing costs on other participants in the health care system. […]
The second flaw in this argument is that it assumes individual decisions about whether to purchase health insurance coverage reflect a fully informed, fully rational weighing of the cost and benefits. In fact, there is strong reason to believe that many individuals, particularly the healthier individuals most affected by the mandate, are likely to undervalue insurance coverage. This likely reflects a variety of well-documented psychological biases, including a tendency to place too much weight on upfront costs of obtaining coverage (including the “hassle costs” of enrolling) relative to the benefits insurance coverage would provide if the individual got sick and needed care at some point in the future. It is therefore likely that many people who would drop insurance coverage due to repeal of the individual mandate would end up worse off, even solely considering the costs and benefits to the individuals themselves.
Neither of these lawmakers is stupid. They are both experienced enough in making policy to understand the ramifications of what they are doing. What they are doing in this case is forcing millions to suffer. Outside of the 13 million people who could lose their health insurance—many of them not choosing to do so—they are supporting cutting $25 billion from Medicare next year and every year after. They are supporting keeping 5 million people from getting Medicaid coverage for which they qualify.
All that was enough for them to oppose Trumpcare when crunch time came. Well, it’s crunch time again. This time, though, it comes with tax cuts for their big donors and opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, Murkowski’s deal with the devil. For that, they’re willing to vote against their constituents, tied up in the pretty lie that they’re giving them freedom.
Jam your senators’ phone lines at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to vote “no” on the Republican tax bill.
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