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Defending ObamaCare With Anecdotes

[This is the script for the latest episode of my podcast, "Consider This!" Click here for the link to the website where you can listen to it directly, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Stitcher Radio.]

You’ve no doubt heard them yourself. I’ve heard them quite a bit; on social media, on blogs, and even in TV commercials. I’m talking about people with their own personal stories about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, has helped them personally.

It’s great to hear that people are able to get coverage for things that they either couldn’t get covered for before, or for less money. Who wouldn’t be in favor of that, and be glad for these people? It feels good hearing how people have benefited from this government program.

And that’s what those, especially on social media, are trying to say with their success story; this is a good thing, because it worked for me. Then I have to ask, what do we make of this story?

William Rivers Pitt, is the senior editor and lead columnist at the leftwing web site TruthOut. He has his own story which he posted at the Democratic Underground website, a forum for the far Left. (Have we figured out where this guy’s politics lie on the spectrum?) He first extolled the wonders of Obamacare, writing about his experience in getting signed up. System goes down in the middle of the session. No problem. Call the 800 number and finish the process there. “No. Big. Deal. Thanks, Obama.” That’s how he signs off that post.

And then reality set in. In another post later on, he relates his experience, not with signing up for Obamacare, but actually trying to use it.

What I’ve learned after a three-month war with these fiends: the ACA says the insurance companies cannot deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, which is true as far as it goes. But they can deny coverage for the life-saving medications necessary to treat those conditions. The insurance company I signed up with through the ACA exchange just denied coverage of my wife’s multiple sclerosis medication. We’re “covered,” to the tune of $700 a month…just not for what she really needs.

He signs off that post quite a bit differently. Later he said he feels like a dupe, and wishes he had a time machine to undo what he’d done. His criticisms get to the point that the DU folks stopped allowing him to comment on his own post.

So then let’s consider this. Does this prove that Obamacare is an abject failure? No. Additionally, good experiences with it don’t prove that it is a success, either. If you contend that one is true, then you have to accept the other, and they come to opposite conclusions. Well then, what does any of this prove, other than that some people are doing better and others doing worse?

The answer is, it proves nothing.

Now you may be asking, “Wait a minute, what? You spent all that time talking about a personal experience that validates your opinion, and now you say that it proves nothing?” Yup, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Let’s consider some hypothetical stories of the “it worked for me” variety.

“I have my own land and can bring up my kids away from the city, thanks to the government shafting those Indians.”

“My family farm is profitable again, and I’m out of debt to those bankers, ever since I bought those slaves. Glad it’s not illegal.”

“I took some foolish risks in the housing market. But thanks to the government bailout, my investment firm is back on its feet.”

For the obligatory disclaimer, I am not comparing those who benefit from Obamacare to homesteaders who appropriated land, slave owners, or bank executives. What I am comparing are the personal experience stories that, from that person’s point of view, make the action by the government look just fine. If a feel-good story about how someone benefited from a government action, or inaction, is all it takes to validate it, then we’ve got to explain why certain government actions were ultimately overturned.

And we can, fortunately. The issue wasn’t whether or not some people benefited – somebody always does – but whether that action was morally or economically good for the country in the long run. The issue was the big picture, not the individual brush strokes. The irony is that a whole lot of people, who would reject the hypothetical personal experiences as validating, are now taking that very same tact. “Hey, it works for me. I’m sorry it doesn’t for you, but we all have to pay our fair share.” That kind of reasoning would be considered vile in so many other situations, but when their political and economic beliefs are at stake, suddenly they make it seem like, if you reject their reasoning, you must hate the poor or the sick or the banker. (Oh, sorry, that was just a hypothetical.)

I’ve covered on this blog the many reasons why I think Obamacare is a bad idea all around for the country. I think there are ways that should have been tried that would have alleviated the worst issues of our health insurance setup as it was that didn’t involve the government, and especially the IRS, involved in 1/6th of the economy. Republicans have had alternatives for a long time. But Democrats played the tried and true political game by declaring that something must be done, Obamacare is something, and therefore it must be done. And now that it’s causing a bunch of problems, they’re defending it with anecdotes. But as someone once reminded me, the plural form of the word “anecdote” is not “data”. A few individual stories about how “it works for me” does not constitute a serious defense of the program. The big picture is the issue, and the big picture here, and pictures elsewhere, show that it is essentially unsound, and will result in ever increasing need for cash to support it, and make health care more politicized that you could possibly imagine.

But hey, it works for you, right?

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes and podcasts at “Consider This”.

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