WCCO Hosts Bob Grayboyes to Discuss the Failures of Obamacare

Longtime WCCO Radio logo

WCCO Radio host Chad Hartman invited Robert Graboyes, Senior Research Fellow form the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, to his program to give expert opinion on the status of Affordable Care Act.

Hartmann lauded Grayboyes as an “outstanding guest” and gave him plenty of time to live up to the hype.  Unfortunately, if Hartmann – or his listeners – were looking for an objective expert to discuss Obamacare, Grayboyes missed the mark.

First of all it is important to know a little about Mercatus.  Mercatus is inherently anti-government and anti-regulation to its core and is not free from academic as well as political criticism.  When it comes to Professor Grayboyes, I expect the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Not long ago George Mason University got mired in something of an academic controversy for mixing money and academics when it was revealed that the Kochs had  made a multi-million dollar gift to the university — in excess of $40 million — with strings attached.  One condition was housing the Mercatus Center and supporting its faculty and curriculum which runs strongly favorable to free market values.

Robert F. Graboyes, MSHA, PhD, George Mason University

Robert F. Graboyes, MSHA, PhD, George Mason University

Draw your own conclusion as to whether that association will bias its research and findings.  Whatever the case, Grayboyes didn’t support his anti-Obamacare rant with much in the way of fact.  Serious debate about the strengths and weaknesses of Obama care exists out there, it simply isn’t being heard.  Perhaps it is too reasoned for an age when ideological posturing is easier to defend.

Unfortunately this posturing defined the tenor of Grayboyes commentary.  Even Hartman, in defense of Grayboyes after the interview, defended him for his opinions, not his facts.

Grayboyes critique struck me as simple-minded.  He tried to make a connection, for example, between the struggling healthcare.gov website and the health care law overall.  He seemed to take smug pleasure in drawing this connection, implying that if the site is failing, how can we expect the law to work.  One is not the other.  This is a false analogy of the sort empty critics make when facts don’t square with opinions.

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If website performance is the standard for success, there is some irony in Bob’s argument.  In fact he singled out Kentucky as an example to show how Obama care will fail.  Ironically, just the opposite seems to be happening in Kentucky.  In fact crazy liberal rags like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal have spoken highly of Kentucky’s recent success.  It turns out Kentucky’s website works and people are enrolling successfully, despite some early glitches.  Presumably, therefore, the state’s health care system is working, too?

Grayboyes is looking for an argument where one does not exist.  He went on to cite numbers from today’s news about very real trouble that people are having with the program and generalizing these specifics to the whole, implying that Obamacare ultimately will fail nearly everyone, better than 80% fail, in fact….but based on what “facts”?  And what exactly is “fail”?

There are indeed problems and headaches for people and business, too, especially small business.  I understand this; but these would be resolved much better if people debated in good faith the facts and objectives of the law.  Opinions like Bob Grayboyes’s don’t foster that sort of debate.  Instead it poisons the debate with misleading, biased rhetoric.

We can debate whether it makes sense to force people to bear the burden of health care costs more evenly over a lifetime — which essentially is a characteristic of the law — but for the most part we’re not having that argument.

Unlike other insurance — say fire insurance which most people will not need — most people will reach an age when they will be in a typically higher-priced insurance bracket.  One of the cost-saving strategies of Obamacare is to even out these costs while at the same time raising overall health, which is lower cost than treating people when they are already very sick.

Even insurance execs argue that over time people who have so-called “cancelled” policies really are transferring to different policies with different coverage benefits which ultimately save most people money overall.

Grayboyes seems entirely unaware of these arguments anyway, whether he agrees with them or not.  He had a lot of bad news, everything from health care rationing to lost medical innovation to eternal bankruptcy.  All of which will cost lives.  (Sound familiar?)

Those are honest opinions at best and at worst intentionally deceptive rhetoric.   Whatever the case, it does not hold up to the facts especially the very fundamental and positive fact that the law puts quality health care within reach of millions of people who have otherwise been excluded.

U.S. Outspends Average Developed Country 141% in Health Care

U.S. Outspends Average Developed Country 141% in Health Care

This is a benefit for all, whether someone is affected directly or indirectly.  But Grayboyes wasn’t going to see the big picture.  He steered his diatribe – for this is what it had become – toward younger Americans who — sadly – may not be as well-informed as they should be.

Obamacare will not bankrupt government and leave the “invincibles” with nothing other than debt.  However, underfunding government — a position aggressively promoted by anti-tax groups like Mercatus – very possibly could.

In fact, the rising cost of health care overall — not Obamacare — accounts for the bleak budget forecasts anti-government health care critics cite.  And much of this – if not all of it — is avoidable, like so many of today’s “crises”.  In the case of programs made possible by the Affordable Care Act, reduced medical costs that comes from a healthier population will help reduce medical costs.

Slower increases in health care costs are not always a sign of good news.  In recent years health care costs have risen relatively slowly, slower, in fact, than any other time since the costs were tracked.   Unfortunately much of this is due to the effects of the recession and employers — pre-Obamacare — shifting more costs to workers.

The reality is our costs are out of control and the private sector does not support a solution without excluding millions of Americans from the health and economic benefits of health insurance.

For those of us who think health care should be a right, the answer is simple.  But there are many who disagree with this idea.  That’s one debate.  Perhaps a better debate would be one that focuses on whether health care providers can be more efficient under cost-control provisions.  Look at other OECD nations which spend dramatically less than we do and deliver better results.  Something in those numbers suggest that we can deliver better results, too.

Look at it this way, Mercatus is Latin for markets or the market place and it sounds like Grayboyes serves that interest well…up to a point.  Better health care is not inconsistent with strong markets and it is a short-sighted mistake to think so.  While markets don’t need health care, not directly, people do.  Markets thrive on efficiencies and I would argue that healthy people is an efficiency worth investment.

There was a lot of rabble-rousing sloppy ideology delivered on Chad Hartman’s show.  That’s a disservice.  It evades serious debate.  Even worse, a lot of people take it for fact.  The facts are out there.  None of it is easy nor is it free.  But some sacrifice and adjustment now will reap benefits later.  Isn’t that both a conservative and an American virtue?


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