Back in 2009, as politicians began debating Obamacare–a massive detour from the economy into an issue less important to voters but critical to Democrats’ ideological goals–Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) reveled in the prospect that health care reform might “put the private insurance industry out of business.” On Wednesday, she told GOP critics of Obamacare’s destruction of individual health policies to “get over it.”
From her perspective, everything is going according to plan, despite the failures of the Obamacare website, despite outrage that President Barack Obama’s promise that you could keep your health insurance turned out to be a lie. The law is a success for Jan Schakowsky because, above and beyond mandates for maternity care and coverage for pre-existing conditions, Obamacare is destroying private insurance–for consumers.
The big insurance companies themselves are doing fine–they just jack up their rates to cover all the new patients and benefits, passing the costs along to their customers, who no longer have a choice but to buy (and to taxpayers, who will foot the bill for new subsidies). It’s the consumers’ side of the industry that has been gutted. We cannot choose a product we like the most, but must bear one we hate the least.
When “progressives” think about “industry,” they conjure images of fat, greedy barons; groaning, suffering workers; and and dirty, polluting smokestacks. They never think of the consumers who are made happier by what industry produces. They view selling a product to a customer who needs or wants it as a form of “abuse,” which is how Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) described the individual insurance market on Wednesday.
At bottom, they have contempt for consumers, because they cannot imagine that any purchase really happens of the customer’s own free will. They refuse to accept that a family might feel happier if it can buy bare-bones insurance that allows it to pay other bills, rather than bells-and-whistles insurance that forces it to make lifestyle changes, to go into debt or to become dependent on state assistance programs like Medicaid.
They refuse to see that forcing people to buy something “good for them” does not make consumers happier. A few–like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and one of Obamacare’s leading lights–understand that expensive policies mean many consumers will be happier doing without. So they are encouraging government leaders to make patriotic speeches exhorting people to pay more for less.
Schakowsky doesn’t even understand that part. She’s just enjoying the moment–even the failures, which she not-so-secretly hopes will lead to a single-payer, socialized health care system. The consumer must suffer for that greater good. Her attitude might seem striking for someone who styles herself as a consumer advocate who has pushed stringent product safety laws. But then, most of those laws hurt the many to protect the few.
When President Ronald Reagan signed his health care reform to provide catastrophic protection for seniors, Schakowsky didn’t “get over it.” She campaigned vigorously to repeal the bipartisan law, prodding seniors to confront the late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) in his car. Again–Schakowsky doesn’t want to fix health insurance, but to destroy it. Frustrated consumers are not getting what they want from Obamacare. But she is.
The author ran against Schakowsky in 2010.