But Insurance Prices Went Down In New York

Image of Barack Obama

Hardly a week goes by without at least one editorial appearing in The Oklahoman that rails against the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

The editorials are filled with half truths, sweeping generalizations and predictions over what MIGHT happen, not what IS happening. Their overall purpose seems more about demonizing President Barack Obama, now in his second term, than providing rational arguments against the legislation, which was signed into law in 2010. I remain unsure how demonizing a second-term Democratic president is going to help Republicans in the next presidential election, especially since many voters have become so desensitized to the constant criticism, but there’s no doubt that remains one of the major focuses of The Oklahoman editorial page and GOP political strategy.

On Saturday, in its weekly Scissor Tales editorial column, The Oklahoman railed against the amount of money, $1.7 million, the federal government is spending in Oklahoma to help people find an individual health insurance plan. The mini-editorial also declares decisively, “Under Obamacare, health insurance prices are increasing dramatically in the individual market” and “It's telling that Obamacare is so expensive and complicated that even its backers believe that people without insurance will choose not to get any — unless some federal worker prods them along.”

Well, like most anything published on the editorial page in The Oklahoman, such sweeping conclusions need vetting and context.

In fact, last week New York state officials announced that health insurance premiums this year for individuals will drop by 50 percent and some health experts credited the new health insurance exchange in that state created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

To be fair, which is something The Oklahoman editorial writers choose never to be, New York had some of the highest health insurance premiums in the country so the drop can’t necessarily be considered a nationwide phenomenon. But it’s also quite clear that the editorial’s sweeping statement about rising health insurance prices needs some clarification and context. The point is that we’re just now learning how new competition in the health insurance market will affect pricing throughout the country. Even if some markets end up with higher prices it doesn’t mean they will stay that way.

By resorting to snarky generalizations, The Oklahoman does a disservice to its readers, who, whether conservative or not, deserve truthful information and not just right-wing propaganda when it comes to medical issues. In the case of health matters, it could literally be a life or death situation for some people, but The Oklahoman editorial page lacks this basic, humane moral commitment to its readers.

Here’s a bit of information that I wrote about back in 2010 that proves that last point is more than hyperbole: The Oklahoma Publishing Company, or OPUBCO, which publishes The Oklahoman, actually participated in an early retiree health insurance program created by the ACA. I wrote about it here. In other words, it’s okay for the newspaper to take advantage of Obamacare while it claims—to use its own rhetorical tone—that the world is coming to an end because more people will have health insurance and access to medical care.

Too often, the Republican debate over Obamacare leaves out the moral component and only focuses on costs. In the contemporary world, all people should have a basic right to health care. The Oklahoman editorial page, judging from its growing anti-Obamacare canon, stands against that basic idea. It wants winners and losers, some who suffer, some who don’t, some who die, some who live. That’s how the free market works, right? Let’s argue about that issue, which is the one that really matters.