The United States is the only industrialized democracy in the world whose major right-of-center party rejects the principle of universal access to basic medical care for all its citizens. The reason for this is that the Republican Party is unique among mainstream parties in its anti-statist ideology, and especially its fervent opposition to economic redistribution. And health insurance at its core is about redistribution. People who are too poor and sick to cover the cost of their own medical care need to be financed by those who aren’t, or else they won’t be able to get it.
One of the ways this principle pops up is in the fight over the essential benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare regulated insurance, and defines it as a product that covers certain basic treatments. Republicans deeply oppose those requirements, on the grounds that people who don’t need a certain kind of treatment shouldn’t have to pay for insurance that covers it. Their posture against “regulation” and one-size-all requirements that big-government bureaucrats want to decide for the American people sounds better in the abstract than it does when applied to the particular. When Republicans are asked which treatments they think should be removed from the essential benefits list, their best example is usually … prenatal care. It came up in a debate in Congress again yesterday:
“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” asked Republican representative John Shimkus. Why should men have to pay for your damn babies? One obvious answer is that the half of the human race whose bodies are equipped for childbirth should not necessarily have to bear all the financial costs of it, given that both genders have a role in procreation and an investment in its success. But this answer brings us back to the logic of mutual obligation, and a vision of society in which a person endowed with a financial benefit (the lack of a potentially expensive uterus) should have to share his bounty with those not so fortunate. So, to the modern conservative mind Shimkus raises a rhetorical question that is easily answered in the negative.