Jay Fleitman: My beef with Obamacare, Part II

Last modified: Tuesday, November 05, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — I thank the editors of the Gazette for allowing me to use my monthly space to respond to the Oct. 14 column by John Sheirer critiquing my October essay, “Why Republicans hate Obamacare.”

There is so much wrong with the ideas displayed in Sheirer’s piece that it is difficult to know where to start. I could begin with his assertion that Obamacare will reduce the federal budget deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars without raising middle-class taxes. The Supreme Court identified the penalty paid by nonparticipating Americans as a tax. The increased premium costs paid by Americans who will be forced to buy mandated services they don’t want or need and the loss of income for people obliged to take part-time jobs may not technically be taxes, but as a coerced loss of disposable income, they might as well be.

Eighty percent of Americans who have so far signed up for Obamacare through the exchanges have not bought private insurance but are signing up for Medicaid, paid for by tax dollars. The taxes that will be levied on insurance policies and medical devices will certainly be forced downstream to consumers. Any program that offers government subsidies to families with incomes of up to $90,000 will obviously cost the taxpayer and the economy tremendously. From where exactly does Sheirer think this money will come?

The cost of Obamacare to the nation’s economy is demonstrated in the test laboratory of Massachusetts. I am struck by the reporting on television of how upset health care consumers are in other parts of the country by seeing their premiums rise by large percentages such that they may now be $200 or $300 per month.

As a small business owner who pays well over $600 per month for each of my employees, a number not different from the cost of an individual insurance policy bought on the Massachusetts exchange, it is obvious that the citizens and businesses of Massachusetts, as a result of health care reform here in 2006, have gotten used to vastly higher insurance premiums as compared to the rest of the country. The state treasury has been badly drained by the oversubscription to Medicaid unanticipated by the “Romneycare” bill. This is now beginning nationwide.

I am sure that Sheirer as a liberal is pro-choice and supports a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. Then why shouldn’t other Americans have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, such as the choice of how to protect their health with how much and what kind of insurance they buy?

The president has frequently denigrated insurance policies that do not conform to the Obamacare dictates as being “substandard.” American consumers should be making the decision about what standards they accept when buying insurance for themselves and their families.

Perhaps my greatest issue is Sheirer’s characterization that this bill represents “our best progressive tradition where we the people care for one another ... as citizens, elected leaders and the people of the private insurance industry can partner to serve the public good.” Is it “partnering” if two of these three components, namely the citizens and private sector, clearly do not want this bill forced on them by the leaders from only one political party?

I suspect that some would opine behind closed doors that American citizens and business people simply are not smart enough recognize what is good for them. It is the liberal conceit that their notions are so wise as to justify their imposition on an unappreciative population.

Sheirer cites my name 13 times in his column, but refers to the Affordable Care Act by name only seven times. I know my name is melodious, and maybe I should thank him for the free advertising. But his is a piece in the proud left-wing tradition of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” that it is more effective to attack and try to marginalize your political opponent than to have to argue the merits of your own position.

I am not intimidated or discouraged by becoming a target, but rather am energized by how dangerously wrong are his thought processes — and how convinced he must be of their righteousness.

Jay Fleitman, M.D., lives in Northampton. His column appears the first Tuesday of the month. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.