On MSNBC this morning, I heard Pat Toomey, who as a United States Senator represents the reactionary and regressive Club for Growth rather than actual people, say:
ObamaCare is extremely unpopular. No surprise. Employers are dropping coverage, small employers are not hiring people…
It is no surprise that many people don’t like the Affordable Care Act because it is no surprise that people like Pat Toomey and other like-minded Republicans go on television and lie about it constantly. And it’s no surprise that the reason these right-wingers go on television and lie about it is because they don’t want it to work, don’t want it to do what it was designed to do: keep insurance companies from screwing Americans and provide health insurance to those who don’t now have it.
So, with no surprises and with the understanding that the ACA has its problems—what should we expect from an idea largely dreamed up by Republicans?—allow me to address the claims Toomey made this morning one at a time:
1) There is little evidence that “employers are dropping coverage” because of the ACA. In fact, much of the evidence so far goes the other way. Using a Wonkblog post from May, I will summarize the available evidence:
♦ The employer mandate (which has been delayed until 2015) in the ACA only applies to businesses that employ more than 50 workers. Get this: Out of the 5.7 million businesses in the U.S., only 210,000 have more than 50 employees, which means that 96% of businesses aren’t even affected by the employer mandate. Additionally, many of those small businesses that don’t employ more than 50 workers are eligible for tax credits between 35% and 50% of the cost of insurance coverage for their employees, which may cause some of those businesses to begin offering coverage to their workers.
♦ The Massachusetts experiment with health care reform, on which ObamaCare is extensively modeled, shows that rather than dropping health insurance for employees, businesses actually expanded coverage. That’s right. They expanded coverage in Massachusetts even while nationally employers were dropping employee health insurance coverage. Here it is in graph form:
And this expansion happened even though the Massachusetts reforms contained a tiny penalty—$295 per worker—for businesses who dropped insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act has a substantially higher penalty that ranges from $2,000 to $3,000 for every employee in the company. Again, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from having to provide health insurance at all.
♦ Wonkblog makes perhaps the most important point of all about employer-provided health insurance by noting that,
…people simply misunderstand why employers offer health-care benefits. They’re not doing it as a favor to employees. And they’re not doing it because anyone is making them…Employers offer health insurance because employees demand it. If you’re an employer who doesn’t offer insurance and your competitors do, you’ll lose out on the most talented workers. An employer who stopped offering health benefits would see his best employees immediately start looking for other jobs.
2) Toomey’s second claim, that “small employers are not hiring people,” is also not supported by the evidence, if by evidence one means employment data. Pat Toomey is not an economist but Mark Zandi is. And in a USA Today article, which was reporting on the growing payrolls among small businesses, the paper included comments from Zandi:
The gains are beginning to shift the terms of the debate over the health care law. Under the law, businesses with 50-plus full-time-equivalent workers must offer insurance to people working 30 hours a week beginning in 2015. That mandate, originally slated for 2014, has not deterred hiring as feared, some economists now say.
As more data come in, the law’s impact can’t be seen in hiring statistics, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.
“I was expecting to see it. I was looking for it, and it’s not there,” says Zandi, whose firm manages ADP’s surveys of overall private-sector job creation. If the Affordable Care Act “were causing a drop, you would see meaningful slowing.”
So, there is no discernible ObamaCare effect, as of yet, in hiring data. And the USA Today article also noted that,
New research from Moody’s and other economists also challenges the idea that small employers are hiring only part-time workers to avoid falling under the health care law’s mandate to insure full-time workers.
Zandi himself tried to make that same point to the Obama-haters on CNBC recently. He tried to tell those hard-heads that recent employment data don’t show an increase in part-time employment designed to get around the 30-hour-per-week threshold that triggers the requirement to provide insurance coverage. CNBC’s unhinged Rick Santelli told Zandi he didn’t believe the numbers and had already made up his mind that ObamaCare was hurting job growth, and then Santelli called Zandi an “apologist for the policy.” That’s how debates with Obama-haters go these days. Don’t confuse those folks with the facts. They don’t want to hear anything that counters their ideological beliefs.
In any case, none of this is to say that ObamaCare will have no effect on decisions employers make. There is anecdotal evidence aplenty that some businesses will cut back health insurance coverage and cut workers hours below “full time” in order to prove to the world that the Affordable Care Act is not, well, affordable. To what extent that anecdotal evidence represents a significant trend is currently unknown, as left-of-center economists Jared Bernstein and Paul Van de Water admitted in a piece they wrote for Politico last month (“Obamacare isn’t destroying jobs”):
The fact is, it’s too early to know how health reform will ultimately affect the amount of part-time work. But there’s every reason to expect the impact will be small.
Meanwhile, the Obama-haters continue to lie about the Affordable Care Act in some form or another. Pastor Rafael Cruz, Ted’s dad, told a gathering of zealous fundamentalists this summer:
Our lives are under attack. We already saw what is happening with abortion. The same thing is happening at the other end with ObamaCare. ObamaCare is going to destroy the elderly by denying care, by even perhaps denying treatment of people that have catastrophic sicknesses.
Now, that is crazy talk, I’ll grant you. But it is common crazy talk among conservatives. And, sadly, there probably isn’t anything that anyone can say to such people to convince them they have lost touch with reality. But I want to at least note that some people are trying to talk sense to such folks. John Fugelsang, actor, comedian, political commentator, recently challenged critics of ObamaCare, particularly its Jesus-loving critics, this way:
If people don’t like ObamaCare—I respect some of the folks on the left who would have rather seen single-payer—I agree there’s problems with it, the thing is so watered down Dick Cheney could pour it on a guy’s face in Gitmo, but the fact is that a lot of our moralizing friends who try to repeal it don’t understand:
If you’re afraid of the competition that comes from exchanges or cheaper Canadian drugs or a public option, stop calling yourself a capitalist.
And if you don’t care about 45,000 Americans dying every year because they’re not insured, stop calling yourself a patriot.
And if you don’t want to have a part in healing the sick, find a new name for your religion. It’s time to stop calling yourself a Christian.
Here is the entire entertaining segment on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on which Fugelsang made those remarks:
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