I have a new theory: in today’s political climate, ideas can only succeed if they can be understood in five seconds. As you might expect, this puts a premium on negativity (“no” is always fast) and stupidity.

An example: the Repubs are apparently getting mileage out of opposition to mandates— the requirement to buy health insurance. You can easily understand that in five seconds, and form an opinion on it too. It’s not hard to refute, but it takes more than five seconds.

First, it’s manipulative bullshit. It isn’t a complaint coming from the millions of uninsured who are proud and eager to stay that way. It’s a fake objection made by people who have health insurance and are glad to have it, simply made out of cruel spite to deny it to those who don’t.

I take this personally, because all I have right now is six-month emergency coverage, with a preexisting conditions clause that resets each policy period, and my wife’s better plan is expiring soon. I could sure use some Obamacare right now.

Let’s look at it economically. The story starts with ending the preexisting conditions trap— something it’s hard to oppose. But as soon as you eliminate it, people can game the system. People can get through their 20s and 30s, often beyond, without major health expenses.  So they could skip out on insurance during that time, only buying it once they’ve come down with diabetes or heart disease.

That’s not fair to the insurance system.  Insurance works because it spreads risk— if only people who have disasters pay for them, it’s not insurance any more.   You are really paying for a lifetime of coverage, and your healthy years help pay for the unhealthy ones.  More than that, you and a pool of others like you are paying for each other, so the horrific costs of health crises are spread out.

Thus the mandate, which comes inevitably once you’ve decided to get rid of the preexisting conditions clause.  And then you have to think about subsidies for the poor so they can afford the mandate; and then you have to think about ways to save money overall so we can pay the subsidies.  In short, you end up with a health care bill.

Maybe the Democrats should call the consies’ bluff, though: add an option that lets you opt out of Obamacare for life.  If you register for it, you don’t have to pay for insurance— but for you all the old rules apply: insurance companies can whimsically deny you coverage, you get no subsidies if you’re out of work, you pay higher prices.

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