Paul Ryan wants you to have the freedom to not be able to afford health insurance

House Speaker Paul Ryan sat down with John Dickerson of “Face the Nation” Sunday to talk about the American Health Care Act, the Affordable Care Act replacement that nobody but Paul Ryan seems to like. Throughout the interview, Ryan stressed that this bill would finally give the American people the freedom to not have health insurance, which is definitely what the main complaint about Obamacare was.

The interview is rocky from the start, as Dickerson runs down a list of organizations that have come out against the AHCA, such as AARP, the American Medical Association, and GOP congressmen, and questions how Ryan could be “pleased with the reaction,” to the proposed bill when “the reaction has been awful.”

“I wouldn’t say the reaction’s been awful,” Ryan says, incorrectly. “I think the reaction is, everyone wants to compare this to Obamacare as if they can keep these guarantees going. As if we’re going to have Obamacare plans, and we’re just gonna finance it a different way. This is repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

Exactly. That’s why people are comparing it to Obamacare. They want to know if what we have now is being replaced with something even worse, and so far, all indications point to yes. Ryan talks a lot about how this is a better fiscal policy that will cost the government less, get more people covered, and drive down the price of insurance altogether. There’s no real proof of that, and early estimates put the number of people that will lose coverage somewhere around 20 million.

At this time, there is still no Congressional Budget Score for the AHCA, so naturally, Ryan was asked about that.

Ryan continued:

“The score we believe will come out probably Monday or Tuesday. Well before we go to the floor, we’ll have the score. The one thing I’m certain will happen is CBO will say ‘well gosh not as many people will get coverage.’ You know why? Because this isn’t a government mandate. This is not, the government makes you buy what we say you should buy and therefore the government thinks you’re all gonna buy it. There’s no way you can compete with, on paper, a government mandate with coverage. What we are trying to do achieve here is bringing down the cost of care, bringing down the cost of insurance. Not through government mandates and monopolies, but by having more choice in competition. And by lowering the cost of healthcare, you improve the access to healthcare…But we’re not gonna make an American go what they don’t want to do. You get it if you want it. That’s freedom.”

To be clear, what Ryan is doing here is spinning the inevitable outcome of people not being able to afford health insurance as a choice. You can argue the merits of a government mandate, but that doesn’t change the fact that not having insurance simply because you don’t have enough money to pay for it is not a choice. This also completely ignores the provision in the law that allows insurance companies to slap a huge surcharge onto people who have a lapse in coverage. The penalty for not being insured is still there, you just pay it directly to a corporation now instead of the government. Freedom!

Dickerson asks Ryan point blank how many people will lose coverage, and again, Ryan dodges and tries to make some grand point about how free we all are to die. “I can’t answer that question,” Ryan says while seemingly trying not to laugh. “It’s up to people. Here’s the premise of your question: are you gonna stop mandating people buy health insurance?”

This, for the record, was not the premise of Dickerson’s question.

“People are gonna do what they wanna do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country,” Ryan continued. “The question is, are we providing a system where people have access to health insurance if they choose to do so? And the answer is yes.”

This point has been made many times over, but access doesn’t mean anything if you can’t afford it. The go to example is usually cars. Anybody technically has access to buy any car, but if you don’t have the money lying around for it, you’re still screwed. This is apparently freedom, though.

In any case, why should anybody trust Ryan on this? Sure, he presents himself as a brilliant policy wonk, but what’s the evidence that he actually knows what he’s talking about? During his rolled-up sleeves presentation he made the point that it’s unfair for healthy people to pay into a system to support sick people. That’s literally the entire point of insurance. Everybody pays in so that nobody has to shoulder the burden alone.

We’re counting on someone who either doesn’t understand or is lying through his teeth about the most basic concept of health insurance. That should worry everybody.

[Face The Nation]