President Trump told a room full of governors “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” He was roundly mocked and vilified for this by the left.
Matt Yglesias, who, by all accounts, is not a doctor, a hospital administrator, insurance expert, or in any way a health care expert, weighed in with pedantic delight:
In reality, I think that literally anyone who has ever worked on health care policy at the state or federal level could have told Trump that.
In fact, Trump was doing what he does best: connecting with the average American, who knows enough to go and see a doctor, sign up for health insurance, and whip out a card for a co-pay. He wasn’t really saying that there aren’t major issues to solve with American health care, but that it shouldn’t be that complicated for the average Joe or Jane.
Americans don’t need to know everything in the complexities of our health care system. All we need to know is that it’s too complicated. And that was Trump’s point. When 50 hospitals can charge 50 different amounts for the same procedure, using the same doctors, or when one doctor can’t tell you how much a shot costs without knowing your insurance plan, that’s “unbelievably complex.”
It would be like shopping for a car, and the first question the dealer asks you is what brand of gasoline you use, and how far you live from the gas station. Because that will determine how much they can charge you for the car. But you won’t know the exact amount until the bank approves the loan, which will affect how big a check you write. And no, you can’t pay cash.
That’s insane, but that’s how health care works here in the U.S., and no, it shouldn’t be like that. Trump wasn’t being an idiot on health care. He was expressing the same frustration most people have when they get an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) in the mail.
As for the mockers and pedants who so quickly brush off the frustration, as if everyone knows the issues, let me pose a question: Is there any doctor out there who knows everything about medicine?
Would you make an appointment with Dr. Rand Paul for a kidney stone (Sen. Paul is an ophthalmologist)? Would you see Dr. Tom Price for a head injury (HHS Secretary Price is an orthopedic surgeon)? Did any of those medical doctors sit around discussing how “anybody can see that health care is unbelievably complex” when they decided to go to medical school?
We might as well get Alan Alda, Patrick Dempsey, Noah Wiley, Lisa Edelstein and Donald Falson to design our health care system (see the Cigna ad) if Matt Yglesias can be so glib about what to tell the president.
Trump has a way of getting things down to their essence. Whether you agree or disagree with his health care plan (if it even exists, because Trump also has a way of selling what we call “vaporware” in the software industry), it’s likely to be very reductionist. It will be understandable, like “build a wall,” or “Mexico will pay.”
And honestly, it’s good to see Trump admit something is more complicated than a simple platitude. At least he admits it. The massive Obamacare bill was treated like it was child’s play. (“We must pass it to know what it’s in it.”) We know how that worked out, and it was exactly as Trump said, “a failed disaster.”
Instead of slamming the president for making what may be the first hint of a self-reflective remark to counter “only I can fix” since he took office, we should give Trump a pat on the back for recognizing what we all know is true, and expressing what we’re all thinking. “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.”
He meant that as “it shouldn’t be.” And he’s right.