July 30, 2013
Obamacare fliers
A pamphlet titled “The Impact of Obamacare.” (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

You know, it’s one thing to oppose a policy; that, of course, is perfectly legitimate. It’s another to undermine it’s implementation by using whatever legislative or legal maneuvers are available to keep it from working, even if it imposes widespread costs in the meantime. Oh, and it’s even worse to do that when you have no alternative policy.

But now, the latest. As discussed last week, conservatives are now trying to talk people out of signing up for insurance through the exchanges. Kevin Drum:

Lovely. This doesn’t come as a surprise anymore, since [conservative talk show host Twila] Brase is hardly the first conservative to do this, but it’s still a remarkable display of spite and meanspiritedness. 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.

We can try to think this through a bit. We actually can put a label on what’s happening here; conservatives are trying to organize a boycott of Obamacare. Note that boycotts are not about convincing people that they won’t be getting good value if they purchase a product; instead, boycotts are about putting pressure on those offering the product for sale, even at the cost to the consumer of passing up something she would ordinarily be happy to purchase.

Except … that’s not what’s actually going on here, is it? After all, it’s not just the exchanges which are governed by the Affordable Care Act. It’s true that the exchanges are the most visible part of the law, but ACA radically changes the regulation regime of all private health insurance, as well as making significant changes in Medicare and Medicaid. Boycotting ACA at this point really means boycotting all health insurance.

So that’s my question: Are those conservatives who are urging people to boycott health insurance actually practicing what they preach? Have they dropped their health insurance, too?

I’m normally not one to call people out for hypocrisy; generally, I’m pro-hypocrisy. But I really can’t imagine the case for telling others to boycott signing up — especially those who, thanks to the subsidies that are an important part of the law, really will be getting a great deal — while continuing to participate in the system themselves. Or for enjoying the benefits of some government regulations of insurance companies and taking one kind of government subsidy (the tax treatment of employer-linked health care) while urging others, as some sort of principle, to reject another.

Steven Benen puts it like this: “Republicans aren’t just actively trying to sabotage the law, they’re telling struggling Americans it’s better to drown than accept the life preserver.” I’d just add: That’s what they’re telling struggling Americans, but (if they continue to hold health insurance) while enjoying the benefits themselves. Yes, it’s despicable.