In a muddled editorial for The Week, conservative writer Erica Grieder tries to argue that the Senate health care plan isn’t actually so bad:
The Senate health-care bill is obviously more thoughtful than the House’s version, and not nearly as malign as many Democrats have summarily declared it to be. At first glance, it struck me as the kind of market-based plan conservative policy wonk Avik Roy, who once worked for Mitt Romney, would come up with if asked to replace ObamaCare. And on closer inspection, it is his plan, in key respects. That makes sense, given that Roy is the Republican Party’s go-to expert on health-care policy. And considering the context, his influence on the bill is reassuring; when someone’s expertise is undisputed, some degree of humanity can be safely inferred.
This is such a flawed argument it’s almost not worth the effort of rebutting it. But let’s indulge ourselves: It’s incorrect to say that Roy’s expertise is “undisputed.” People dispute it quite a lot. And even if that weren’t true, and we lived in some grim parallel timeline where Roy reigned over us all as the high priest of Medicaid and his every utterance was holy writ: This has no bearing on the quality of his “humanity.” Experts can be monsters. Eugenicists, for example, were considered “experts” in the fields of medicine and biology. Knowledge and virtue are distinct concepts that do not necessarily have any bearing on one another; a person can know things and apply that knowledge in unethical ways. And this is what Roy has done, declaring that a bill that would leave millions of mostly low-income people without basic health insurance “the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.”
The rest of Grieder’s arguments are similarly broken. She claims that the plan “largely preserves” Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions (it doesn’t). She notes that premiums and deductibles have risen under Obamacare, but fails to recognize that the law slowed that rise significantly. She asserts that “the left’s default position is that ObamaCare’s shortcomings are due to Republican obstructionism prior to its passage, and Republicans’ subsequent refusal to cooperate.” That isn’t necessarily true: Many on the left attribute Obamacare’s shortcomings to the law’s market-based approach, and to Democrats who would not support a more progressive law.
And Grieder never reckons with the inevitable consequences of kicking people off their insurance. As Clio Chang noted yesterday, data supports one conclusion: The Senate health care plan will kill people. People die when they cannot afford medical care. And that is not even to mention the myriad other ways this bill will simply make people’s lives more painful. “That’s how markets work,” Grieder responds. Ethical dilemmas are rarely so obvious. Conservatives like Roy and Grieder obfuscate the stakes, and from this you can indeed infer a great deal about their humanity.