Krugman provides more fodder for Obama apologists on health insurance reform
Since the usual suspects will be linking to Krugman's column today, check the comments, because they make lots of great points. Krugman writes:
For people on the left who think this is all a big nothing, consider the subsidies.
Krugman's assuming a can-opener. In this case, that the subsidies will be enough. We know they won't be, for two reasons: (1) the bill doesn't control costs, so the subsidies are always going to lag needs, and (2) means test + subsidy = welfare, meaning that the precedent for the program is not SS but AFDC, so the program will be under constant assault from "entitlement reformers" in the Dem party rightward.
And then there's the whole 2014 thing, which nobody, including Krugman, has even been able to explain let alone justify.
Professor, you say "do the math," but you're assuming the numbers you write on your chalkboard are real! Less "economics" -- and less "politics" -- and more "political economy" please! What's your story?
NOTE See also Hipparchia, here.
UPDATE Scarecrow explains the underlying, moral and intellectual issues more clearly than I did:
The problem with these comparisons is that they assume the affected population is composed of people who would have bought insurance without reforms. But the relevant population consists of those who aren’t insured now and likely wouldn’t be in the future. What matters to them is whether they can actually afford the payments they’ll be required to make under the mandate. What they would have paid without reform and mandates is not relevant, because they wouldn’t have bought insurance — they’d be part of the 45-50 million uninsured.
The payments the affected population would be forced to make consist of both the premiums net of subsidies and the out-of-pocket co-payments and deductibles they would have to pay before receiving treatment. That’s a critical piece of what folks like Jon Walker and Marcy Wheeler (see her estimates on affordability) are insisting Congressional Democrats confront and fix. And if some folks can’t afford those payments in 2013-2014, it’s obvious that even more folks would have problems as the costs rise over time, which they are virtually guaranteed to do without sufficient price regulation, provider cost controls and/or competition from a viable public alternative.
The only relevant question for these otherwise uninsured folks is whether they can afford to make the total payments required by the mandates, year after year, given the bill’s weaknesses. If they can’t, then they’re not really "covered," and the mandate is unjustified. They’ll be stuck paying the penalty, and they still won’t have insurance.
To be sure, some unknown percentage of this group of uninsured may be able to afford meaningful insurance that provides real care with the subsidies, but these tables don’t answer that question.
Krugman and others who keep creating these charts surely understand that affordability is critical. Democrats should demand it as a condition for imposing any mandate. But by continuing to present charts that partly avoid or obscure the mandate and affordability issues, they make it harder for those of us still fighting to improve the final bill. And I don’t think Krugman et al really mean to do that.
I think that, in fact, they do "mean to do that," because they feel that a win for their preferred legacy party in 2010 and/or 2012 is the main priority (no doubt for the best of reasons). After all, "we can always fix it later." (That is the talking point that framing the bill as SS, and not AFDC, is meant to support.) Unfortunately, in the short run some of us are dead, because neither making a federal crime out of being uninsured nor the junk insurance they're forcing on us will get us care, but will leave us even more impoverished. Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today.