The tales of woe and gnashing of teeth over the repeal of Obamacare, designed to tug at your heart and turn you against repealing the monstrosity, is a spectacular example of what Frederick Bastiat and Henry Hazlitt both wrote about – how the impacts of government action have two categories of consequences, those seen and those unseen.
Greg Sargent, writing at the Washington Post, gives us an example of how the visible consequences of the Affordable Care Act could be visibly impacted by its repeal:
I have obtained new numbers from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that suggest that a lot of poor and working-class whites — who voted for Trump in disproportionate numbers — have benefited from Obamacare, meaning they likely stand to lose out from its repeal (and even its replacement with something that covers far fewer people).
Gallup-Healthways tells me that among whites without a college degree who have household incomes of under $36,000, the uninsured rate has dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 15 percent now — a drop of 10 percentage points.
Wow. That’s something, I guess.
But that’s what is seen. What isn’t seen?
How many of these people who now have “coverage” don’t have care? It’s easy to point at people who now receive Medicaid. Where are the stats on how many of these people can’t find a doctor?
We’ve all seen the data on how insurance premiums have increased across the country, but how has Obamacare increased the cost of health care? How has it impacted patients not on Medicaid? Has it increased the quality of care?
And what will be the consequences of the Trump administration’s reforms? I would love for someone, say an editor of a newspaper, to ask, “And then what happens?”
No one knows because we don’t know what they are, outside of the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
It’s possible, depending on the amount of freedom injected into the medical market, for the cost of health care to decrease, for the cost of health insurance to drop and for more younger people to choose medicine as a career, increasing the number of doctors and therefore, increasing access to actual medical care.
That’s another fallacy Sargent uses in his article. He only looks at what happens in the short term, a fallacy abused by bad economists and their sycophants for decades. Hazlitt explained it best:
The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond.
This is what Sargent does when he writes about how Trump voters will lose their newly acquired Medicaid benefits. But he doesn’t discuss what happens then. He doesn’t “look beyond.” What are the consequences of the reforms in six months or a year?
What harmful unseen consequences of the ACA will silently disappear? What unseen benefits will appear, or return?
These can’t be considered because the goal isn’t so much to inform as it is to influence. And it’s easier to make people feel than it is to make them think, which is one of the greatest advantages the bad economists and the snake oil salesmen of statism have.