Republicans Don’t Think Government Should Help Poor People Afford Health Insurance

In yesterday’s Republican Radio Address, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) reiterated the GOP’s attacks against Obama’s appointment of Dr. Don Berwick to head CMS, accusing the nominee of planning to redistribute the wealth:

ROBERTS: Now, as we all return to work after our Independence Day celebrations, we learn President Obama — again — has gone behind closed doors to appoint a health care czar without public debate.

President Obama gave a recess appointment — avoiding a public hearing and a vote in the Senate — to Dr. Donald Berwick, making him the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. […] He said, ‘any health-care funding plan…must — must — redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.’ Well, the obvious fear is Dr. Berwick will in fact use this position to redistribute the wealth in our country, cementing Obamacare as a giant, but stealthy, income transfer machine.

Watch it:

Roberts can talk about redistributing the wealth in all kinds of malicious tones, but I don’t think you can do health reform without it. Currently, poor Americans — particularly those without access to employer based coverage and those suffering from chronic conditions — are priced out of the system. They can’t find insurance to cover their chronic condition and so they go uninsured or seek uncompensated care in the emergency room once their condition becomes unbearable. The costs of their treatments are shifted throughout the system and contribute to higher premiums.


To eliminate these cost shifts and control health care spending, you have to bring everyone into the health care system. The health care law does this by establishing exchanges and providing subsidies for lower income Americans, while eliminating the tax exemption for so-called Cadillac health care plans. Republicans have proposed a more radical version of the same basic concept: giving everyone a one-size-fits-all tax credit to purchase health insurance on the individual market, while eliminating the tax exemption for all employer-based coverage. Now, I would argue that “the poorer and less fortunate among us” would do much better under the current health care law than the GOP’s scheme, but both plans would give poorer people money to buy health coverage and take away money from richer people (to varying degrees).

Covering people costs money, even under the Republican plan, and the fact that most of our nation’s dollars are concentrated among the very very wealthy (income inequality is the worst it has been since 1928, and according to the latest data, “the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007”) means that both Republicans and Democrats have to take those dollars from the top. What else can you do when the “top 1 percent of families now receive nearly 25 percent of the country’s income, after earning less than 10 percent in the 1970s?”

Roberts only has the GOP redistributive policies (from poor to rich) to blame.