The Rhetoric of ObamaCare
Except for diehard, "true believer" progressives, it has finally begun to dawn on Americans that ObamaCare was sold to us under false pretenses. But the selling of ObamaCare was accomplished not only with lies. It also relied on the clever use of rhetoric: the language of persuasion. But even now, after the lies have been exposed, the rhetoric just keeps coming.
In the president's 51-minute statement on Nov. 14, there are 29 iterations of the word "market." Of those, 11 iterations are in the form "marketplace." Here are a few of the president's 11 uses of "marketplace":
Now, switching gears, it has now been six weeks since the Affordable Care Act's new marketplace has opened for business. ...
And number two, that the marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost. ...
We will continue to make the case, even to folks who choose to keep their own plans, that they should shop around in the new marketplace because there's a good chance that they'll be able to buy better insurance at lower cost. ...
But we always knew that these marketplaces, creating a place where people can shop and through competition get a better deal for the health insurance that their families need, ...
Now, it is important to understand that out of that population, typically there is constant churn in that market. This market is not very stable and reliable for people. So people have a lot of complaints when they're in that marketplace. ...
As I said, there are still going to be some folks who over time, I think, are going to find that the marketplaces are better. ...
What President Obama is referring to with his uses of "marketplace" is a feature of ObamaCare called "the exchange." But he didn't use the word "exchange" a single time in his statement. Also, in her Nov. 17 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Rep. Nancy Pelosi used "exchange" (once) but immediately corrected herself: "And, by the way, you have to tell people that they can go to the exchange, the marketplace, where they may qualify for a subsidy."
Are Democrats running away from the word "exchange"? Has it become a dirty word? You see, "exchange" appears 332 times in the text of the ACA, but there's not a single mention of "marketplace."
A marketplace for health insurance certainly existed before the advent of ObamaCare. But when the president refers to that pre-existing marketplace, he uses the term "market." There are 12 iterations of the word "individual" in the president's statement, and they're all attached to the word "market," as in the "old individual market."
So why the distinction between marketplace and market; aren't they the same thing? I believe the distinction is deliberate, as is the avoidance of the word "exchange." The intended message is: ObamaCare created a marketplace; so don't you be callin' it "socialized medicine."
The United States has not had a true market for health insurance since at least the passage of the McCarran-Ferguson Act in 1945. That act gave an anti-trust exemption to the health insurance industry, which severely limited competition. The health-insurance market was further distorted two decades later with the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, which were additional intrusions of government into the market. With its expansion of Medicaid and its new subsidies for low-income Americans, ObamaCare only makes the market for health insurance even less of a "free market" marketplace.
Can you call it a "marketplace" when the government commands you to buy certain products and fines you if you don't?
Can you call it a "marketplace" when the government itself pays for some people, either entirely or with subsidies, but doesn't pay for others?
Can you call it a "marketplace" when the government dictates prices?
Can you call it a "marketplace" when the government commands providers to offer only one government-approved product?
Can you call it a "marketplace" when its purpose is to enlarge the "risk pool" to defray the expenses of a minority within the pool?
Can you call the ObamaCare exchanges "the marketplace" when you can buy the same products elsewhere, in some other market?
Can you call it a "marketplace" when habitual liars tell you it's a "marketplace"?
A true market would allow everyone to buy or not to buy. A true market would charge everyone the same prices, and everyone would pay those prices themselves. A true market would allow for a wide array of different and competing products, everything from catastrophic to Cadillac, no one-size-fits-all. And in a true market for health insurance, one of those products would be "major medical." That's a term you may not have heard very much lately, but it's basically "catastrophic insurance."
On Nov. 15 in "The Brilliant Economics of 'Bad' Health Insurance," Michael Booth runs the numbers on "major medical," comparing it to plans that the president would consider "good." It's an brilliant analysis, and if Booth's numbers are representative, then "major medical" would be a smart choice for many Americans, but it's been outlawed by ObamaCare.
What I'm in the market for is a little truth in advertising. But all I hear is dishonest rhetoric, such as the claim that with ObamaCare some 30 million Americans now have health insurance. That's a reference to the ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid. But Medicaid isn't insurance; it's welfare. Equating a "free" government program with private products willingly bought by consumers with their own money might qualify as some lamer kind of rhetoric.
Progressives have a knack for drawing distinctions were none exist and for lumping together things that should be kept apart and distinct. It's called rhetoric, and we need to be able to recognize it if we don't want to be sold a bill of goods again.
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.