How about some genuinely good news for a change? The Census Bureau reports that fewer Americans are now going without health insurance. That’s almost certainly a consequence of the Affordable Care Act’s new regulations ensuring that young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance. Jonathan Cohn takes us through the details, and concludes:
So more young people are getting insurance through their parents’ policies. Other people are getting insurance through Medicaid, a government insurance program that Obamcare expands. As a result, fewer Americans are facing crippling medical bills and going without recommended medical care. Critics predicted that insurers would respond to the new regulations by jacking up premiums, making insurance less available. So far, at least, it hasn’t happened.
Yeah, that health care law was a terrible idea.
You know what this reminds me of? Something that seems far from health care reform: Mitt Romney’s riff in his convention speech mocking Barack Obama for promising “to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.”
Because if the liberal impulse is “we can do better,” and the liberal danger is a hubris that trying to do better is always an unambiguously good idea, the threat to liberals is a cynicism that we really can’t do better. That trying to do something difficult is inherently something to be mocked. And the truth is that anti-liberal cynicism isn’t without some merit at times, and it certainly isn’t without some political appeal.
But there’s also the truth that the United States did clean up the air and clean up the water. Ask someone who remembers what Los Angeles was like before the Clean Air Act started working. The United States did transform old people from a group among whom poverty was frequent and devastating into a group which largely avoids poverty. The United States did bring water to deserts and put a man on the moon.
Obviously, a small uptick in the percentage of Americans with health insurance doesn’t reach those lofty heights. At least, not yet. And there’s a long way to go before we see whether and how well the law works, assuming it really does get implemented as planned. But what I hear in that Romney speech (and, for that matter, in the entire “you didn’t build that” attack) isn’t so much a claim that a specific plan advanced by Barack Obama and the Democrats was a bad idea, but that working together — collective action through government — is inherently futile.
The good news about Obamacare today, then, is a small reminder that whatever else its problems and limitations, government action simply isn’t inherently futile.
As the Mitt Romney who signed a law that dramatically reduced the ranks of the uninsured in Massachusetts certainly knows.