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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Even acknowledging that our national politics have become increasingly contentious, here’s a development that is really odd: Two billionaire brothers are spending millions of dollars to try to persuade young Americans not to buy health insurance. What’s up with that?

The industrialist Koch brothers, David and Charles, are among the very richest Americans — indeed, among the very richest people on the planet. They are not merely members of the 1 percent; they’re in the topmost fraction of the 1 percent.

That means that they not only can afford to buy health insurance for themselves, but they can also buy physicians, hospitals, medical labs and pharmacies if they choose to do so. They have access to the very best medical care that money can buy — and, in America, that’s the difference between life and death.

But unlike, say, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the Koch brothers have not concerned themselves with trying to make life a bit more comfortable and pleasant for others. Oh, no. The Koch brothers are the very stereotype of the greedy and selfish hyper-rich, the poster boys for self-interested plutocracy. They want to control the country’s politics — no matter who gets hurt in their grab for power.

That’s why they’ve funded ultraconservative candidates and political causes over the past couple of decades. Their to-do list includes aiding the effort to torpedo the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Among the political groups they fund is an outfit called Generation Opportunity, which is running a creepy ad to persuade young women of a lie: that Obamacare comes between a patient and her physician.

The Koch brothers know that the new health care paradigm depends on enlisting healthy young adults — people who tend to take the risk that they don’t need health insurance — into the system. If they don’t sign up, the new exchanges won’t have enough vigorous and youthful Americans to help pay the way for the sick and frail. Insurance companies need to be able to spread the costs around so they don’t go bankrupt trying to care for the ailing.

But the Koch brothers, like most conservatives, want Obamacare to fail. They are not concerned that the new health care law, which would extend insurance to the vast majority for the first time in history, is a “government takeover” of medicine or a “jobs-killer” or a ruinous new entitlement. None of that is true. (See factcheck.org or PolitiFact.com for actual facts about Obamacare.)