Blog Battle Over the Frost Family: Really a Fight Over Health Care's Future

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  • 10/11/2007
Jonathan Cohn is The New Republic's leading voice in support of universal health care. He has taken issue with conservative who have criticized Democrats for using middle and upper class individuals as walking and talking posters for their efforts to increase the welfare state. Most recently conservative bloggers, including me, have taken issue with Democrats deciding to have a 12 year boy give a response to President Bush's veto of SCHIP. It seemed tacky at the time, sort of a cheap shot considering the bill Bush nixed extends government insurance to folks making $83K a year (no asset test folks!) at a time when Medicaid rolls are declining. But then I learned that picking the kid was Families USA's idea and well, the fact they have moved from lying about drug prices to dragging a family into the middle of a political fight does not surprise me at all.

So of course Cohn tries to blame "right wingers" for picking on a kid. Let's be clear. The issue is whether SCHIP should be expanded to middle income families. At least that's what Cohn is saying:

"We know that people with modest incomes are having a harder time paying their medical bills, because insurance is getting so pricey and--increasingly--the benefits available leave them exposed to high out-of-pocket expenses. We also know this is particularly true of people who can't get coverage through large employers--a class of people that is expanding as the business community slowly extricates itself from the mess of providing workers with insurance.

In other words, it's not just the most destitute Americans who need assistance getting health insurance. It's people who have jobs, make a decent living, and own their homes. And when medical crisis hits, they're forced to take drastic steps--like selling their homes, depleting life savings, declaring bankruptcy, or simply going without the care they and their loved ones need. Unless, of course, the government provides them with insurance at affordable rates. "

First of all, Cohn is immune to the facts: many people simply don't buy insurance that is affordable (and it is affordable) in many cases so they create a medical crisis in many cases.... The fastest growing segment of the uninsured are people making $70k or more and whose incomes are growing. Explain that. Meanwhile Medicaid roles are declining.

Cohn also sees health insurance as a big pre-paid security blanket. Zero deductibles. No copays. Coverage for everything. Dream on boychick. That does not even exist in France, your health care wet dream. That system is broke so Sarkozy is installing gatekeepers, co-pays, the works. Soon France will be one big HMO. Even GM's employees are cutting back. You see health care as an all you can eat buffet, not as personal responsbility.

Ultimately, Cohn misrepresents the conservative position on health care. It is not opposition to making coverage affordable. Rather, the conservative position is to take the favorable tax breaks and purchasing power corporations have and give it to individuals. So instead of SCHIP why not advanceable tax credits and purchasing pools, prefunded HSAs? Why is Cohn so opposed to that? For the same reason liberals are hysterical about declining Medicaid enrollment and opposed Part D. They want people dependent.

The fight is not about a family and whether they should have access to affordable and convenient care. That's a given. The fight is about whether Americans should be herded into a single payer system supported by Hillary, Cohn and others where the sort of high tech care Graeme Frost needs and deserves will be denied him regularly. With HSAs, tax credits and consumer choice he and his family will have control over the medical decisions that shape his life, not a bureaucrat or some comparative effectiveness institute. In Britain, Germany, Canada or even France where the doctors strike more than they see patients, Graeme would get inferior care. He would be less cared for and less valued.

In the final analysis, conservative care more about his future than Cohn, Ezra Klein and his kind ever will. Klein, Cohn and Families USA just want to expand the welfare state. I dare say my conservative colleagues want to preserve the possibilities that medical progress offer to extend life and enhance the human condition.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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