Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate chamber after a vote as the Republican majority in Congress remains stymied by their inability to fulfill their political promise to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 7/28/17


The stock-in-trade for politicians is words and in current American politics, words tend to become gradually redefined by politicians and the media through repeated deliberate misuse. Such bastardization continues until certain politically useful words have lost nearly all connection to their original meanings.

One such word is ‘affordable.’ According to Webster, ‘affordable’ means “having a cost that is not too high.”

Congressional Republicans are tied up in knots over the law we call ‘Obamacare.’ But the law’s actual name is the “Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act.” If there was ever an illustration of politically-driven word re-definition, the “Affordable” Care Act is it.

In Washington, the word ‘affordable’ has been redefined to mean, “someone else is paying for it.” That is far different from, “having a cost that is not too high.”

It is precisely because of employer-provided health insurance – a response to government wage and price controls during World War II; and Medicare, a massive universal welfare plan created in 1965 – that healthcare costs have outpaced inflation by so much for so long.

Shifting the function of paying for health care to insurance companies or the federal government — as most Democrats would like via a government ‘single-payer’ system – does not lower costs. It raises them.

In a system of third-party payment, the lack of price sensitivity by the consumer at the point of consumption nullifies the mechanisms by which supply and demand are kept in balance.

The one thing that the Brits have learned in their nearly 70 years of the National Health Service is that costs never come down. It is a constant in British politics that no matter how much Parliament appropriates for Britain’s single-payer system, it is never enough.

The problem that we now face in the United States is that even well-employed people of nominal means can’t truly afford what health care costs. Insurance with premiums equal to mortgage payments and deductibles equal to the price of a serviceable car have put severe strains on the finances of small businesses and middle class families.

A country in which its average citizen can barely pay the bill for his or her own health care is going to have a very hard time covering the cost of cardiac bypass surgery for a lifelong welfare recipient.

Thus it is essential that the actual costs of health care come down. And the only known way to bring costs down is through the price sensitivity that occurs in free market competition. That’s how cell phones and computers that once only the wealthy could afford are now in the hands of almost literally everyone.

Any idea that costs can be controlled via a top-down federal bureaucracy overseen by career politicians who, but for the “profession” of politics, would be by and large unemployable, is pure delusion.

How to provide health care for those who truly can’t afford it is a legitimate societal concern. But it’s a concern that cannot be addressed until affordability, as properly defined, is properly addressed.

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