Conservatives Move To Trying To Trick Lower Income People Out Of Health Care

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:11 EDT
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Empty….just how the right likes it.

Kevin Drum links a story about a last ditch effort to try to hurt Obamacare: Radio ads trying scare uninsured people from using the exchanges to purchase insurance.

To that end, Brase launched the “Refuse to Enroll” campaign earlier this month on her daily radio show, “Health Freedom Minute,” which is broadcast on more than 350 stations nationwide, including the American Family Radio Network with stations throughout Ohio. [...]

“Contrary to popular belief, non-enrollment in the exchanges does not result in any penalties; fines are only for failure to be insured,” said Brase, whose organization claims the law will limit consumers’ choices, threaten their privacy and increase the cost of health insurance. “We look at the law as being unconstitutional because it’s a government takeover of health care, so we want to make it difficult for the law to function as its proponents want it to.”

There’s two possibilities for the person who is snookered by the “Obamacare will destroy you!” hysteria and doesn’t look for insurance on the exchange:

1) They buy insurance directly, instead of taking advantage of the competitive prices created in the exchange. This will be a massive financial penalty for falling for this trick, according to CNN Money.

2) They take one look at the extremely high non-exchange prices and go without, figuring the fine will cost them less. This is clearly what this “Refuse to Enroll” campaign is hoping people will do—keep people as far away from exchanges and the discounts that make insurance affordable, so that people just don’t get insured.

Drum is understandably offended on a moral level, because shit is evil.

Conservatives are just hellbent on trying to keep poor people from getting decent health coverage. The right-wing intelligentsia can claim otherwise, but the plain truth is that no one in the actual governing wing of the Republican Party wants to replace Obamacare with anything else. They just want to repeal it, full stop. For some reason, the mere idea of poor and working-class people getting medical care with taxpayer help drives them into conniptions.

Let’s be clear: This campaign is only about the exchanges. So when Drum says “taxpayer help”, he means simply the cost of setting up and running the exchanges. This is critical, because lower enrollment numbers will not really affect the amount of taxpayer money being spent on the exchanges—the exchanges are basically a virtual market funded by the government, and the number of customers strolling through doesn’t really change the cost of maintaining a market space. So this isn’t, no matter what our inevitable half-educated screeching trolls will claim, about saving taxpayer money. This has nothing to do with the “taxpayer” part, and just with the “help” part—and really, it’s mostly about access.

I said it repeatedly during the battles over health care reform and I’ll say it again: Most of the paranoia and hysteria coming from the right over Obamacare (they’ll regret naming it after him when the exchanges plus subsidies become one of the most popular government programs running 10 years hence) boils down to one of the most base emotions on the right: The fear and disgust that boils up when they fear they will have to share something with lower class people. I’ve dubbed it the “waiting room problem”: conservatives are deeply, unshakably afraid that once the uninsured start getting insurance, they’ll have to sit next to them in doctors’ waiting rooms, and that’s what they don’t want to happen.

You may laugh, but if you think about it, this fear of having to share spaces with “others” who have less money than they do—and who may be, gasp, different than they are—drives a whole shitload of conservative policy preferences and hang-ups. The hostility towards any attempt to improve public transportation is expressing a direct preference for unmanageable traffic over having to sit on a train or a bus with poor people (even though no one actually makes you use public transportation, but I guess the mere temptation of using the train is so serious that the rest of us have to give access). Hatred of immigrants and the ugly hostility towards cities? Same thing. There’s a tendency on the right to see lower income people as inherently contaminating, as if their very presence degrades everything around them by the force of magic or something. Witness George Will blaming “culture”—which is a conservative code word for the presence of lower income people and definitely for lower income people of color—for the problems Detroit is facing. Pay special attention to his freak-out over reading and literacy rates.

Being literate is a learned behavior; outside of those with learning disorders, it is not about anything inherent to the person. The reason that one school lags behind another in reading is because of social investment in that school and not anything to do with the inherent qualities of the students. Usually there are not enough teachers or the schools are falling apart or there aren’t enough resources. Often, schools in poverty-stricken districts have outside problems coming in, too, such as students who don’t have enough rest or food, or have stressful situations outside the school doors that make it hard to study. All these problems have solutions, usually involving investment in communities and investment in decent paying jobs, but Will seems rock solid certain that it’s the poor people themselves that are the problem, that their mere presence is a contaminant that spreads—people themselves are viewed as the problem to be avoided or contained, instead of as people who have problems, such as lack of health care, that need to be fixed.

On the contrary, to the conservative mind, the last thing you want to do is help fix people’s problems, because the fixes usually involve creating situations where various classes of people have more contact. That’s how conservative thinking goes: If working class people have insurance, they’ll go to the doctor. It might be my doctor and then their very presence will ruin everything!

While this kind of paranoid thinking seems too idiotic to be possible, it’s evident all over conservative media and not just in Will’s prissy rants. It’s really common, for instance, for conservatives to suggest that health care is going to physically resemble a soup kitchen line. It’s not subtle, either—my Google search for “health care lines” turned this up as the first image.

This one guy decided to protest a line of people waiting for a flu shot, if you want a general idea of what emotionally compels the right.

While this asshole would like you to believe the “problem” is letting everyone access health care, the real problem was that the H1N1 vaccine had just come out, so of course there was a mad rush to get it. In real life, most health care situations do not have everyone at once trying to get care. But this is the narrative that conservatives are humping: If lower income people are allowed in the system, then they’re going to DESTROY EVERYTHING!!!11!!11!!1!1!!! So they’re using every underhanded trick they can in hopes of keeping people out.

Yeah, it’s ugly. I don’t know what else to say. It should make you angry. It’s infuriating.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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