The XX Factor

No, Obamacare Is Not a “War On Bros”

Fans participate in tailgating activities before the game between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs and subsidize your pap smear.

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

One of the major problems that the right wing media is facing when trying to demonize Obamacare is that the actual provisions in the law are quite popular. People opposed this entity they called “Obamacare” because they didn’t understand it, and the rollout has for sure been a total mess. But as Americans start to experience what the health care exchanges are actually about—basically, making it easier to get substantive health insurance if you’re not covered by an employer—right wing strategies have to shift. One strategy that’s developing quickly: Pitting men against women.

The latest example of this is Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute, who complained on Fox News that the Affordable Care Act is a “war on bros,” i.e. younger men who tend to not go to the doctor much, and that “men are going to pay more relative to women.” He neglects to mention that’s because the ACA bans insurance companies from charging women more, meaning men don’t get a discount anymore for simply being male. Women do have more medical concerns starting younger than men, mostly because of childbirth and other gynecological issues, but it is worth pointing out that women’s health in that department is intimately tied up with their relationships with men.  Roy also tried to pit young against old, pointing out that older people are “heavily subsidized by young people.” Of course, Fox’s viewers are mostly on Medicare and are getting subsidized by younger people no matter what happens. 

This isn’t the first time that Fox News has pitted men against women in order to distract its audience from the truth. Roy admits that individual market premiums are only going up in states that had largely unregulated insurance markets before, which is a nice, elusive way of saying that before Obamacare, insurance companies were free to sell you “insurance” whose only real benefit was a card you got in the mail, or what Consumer Reports calls “junk health insurance” that covers so little that you’re often better off having no insurance at all.

Under the ACA, the individual market is being set up to look like the kind of insurance that you get through an employer, as Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine explains. So whether you are using a health exchange or you get insured through your employer, the young “subsidize” the old and young men “subsidize” young women. That’s how insurance works. Which is why, if you look past the jokes about “bros,” it becomes quickly evident that what Roy isn’t arguing against here is the ACA so much as the very existence of insurance itself. If it’s wrong for older people or women to use more health care when everyone’s paying into the system, then it should be wrong whether you get your insurance through your job or the health care exchange. Having your boss arrange the paperwork doesn’t change the fact that some people need more health care. I’m guessing Fox News is so certain that its audience will be enraged about women stealing all the health insurance with birth control pills (which, in the land of right wing media, have no benefit for men at all), that viewers won’t notice that they were just nodding along to a radical argument against the very concept of health insurance at all.