Still, some conservative critics of Obamacare — those advocating repeal and, well, nothing — are inhabiting their own ideological daydream. President Obama did not invent a right to health care, just a right to a highly regulated form of health insurance. Americans had jury-rigged a system long before. Under a federal law from the 1980s, hospitals taking Medicare can’t deny emergency treatment to people based on their ability to pay for it. Medicare and Medicaid provide insurance to the elderly and poor. This combination of emergency-room care and health entitlements amounts to a guarantee of a certain kind of health care — often provided late in disease progression, after a long wait in line, by harried, overwhelmed doctors trying to navigate in (or game) a system of wage and price controls.
Conservatives need this to sink in: America already has a right to a certain minimum of health treatment, which is not going away. It is an expression of compassion and decency. But it is not well-designed or efficient. And it leaves millions of people with an inferior quality of care.