The Tides are Turning on Obamacare

(Flickr / aflcio)

(Flickr / aflcio)

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article about Obamacare. At the time, the unions were some of its biggest supporters – but the drumbeat has changed.

In 2009, the Teamsters, one of the largest and most influential labor unions, led a wholehearted campaign to support healthcare reform in an “unprecedented union effort.” They encouraged their members to take action, contact their legislators, and put pressure on them for the new healthcare bill.

The result? They got exactly what they wanted. In a statement, the Teamsters applauded the passage of Obamacare. In return for their support (and millions in campaign donations), President Barack Obama promised tax exemptions from the new law to the powerful union.

Everything seemed to work out perfectly, until the Teamsters realized what they had supported. Last week, the union suddenly understood the mistake they had made. In a harshly critical letter to congressional Democratic leaders, the Teamsters and two other large unions criticized the law’s “perverse incentives” and the administration’s “stone wall” response.

One of their chief complaints was the incentive Obamacare creates to cut employees’ hours. The current law mandates that employers provide health insurance to all employees working over 30 hours a week. In order to avoid the stiff penalties, companies instead chose to cut hours, so workers lost both income and health benefits.

After complaints from businesses, the Obama administration surprisingly chose to delay this employer mandate. Though this decision essentially kicked the can down the road, it was a sign that implementation of the leviathan of regulations is encountering some trouble. This is further evident in the Department of Health and Human Services’ desperate attempt to convince the NFL and NBA to promote the new law. The proposal was quickly rebuffed by the leagues.

Public opinion on Obamacare has been changing as well, as people begin to notice the massive tax increases that will hit their wallets. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds the law’s unpopularity at a new high. A shocking 49 percent of Americans think the law is a bad idea, compared to only 37 percent of Americans who think the opposite.

House Republicans have tried to seize this momentum, but to no avail. With at least 39 separate votes to repeal, defund, or hinder Obamacare, they have succeeded in some small modifications to scale back the law. This stems from a long-standing conservative criticism of the law’s incentives. In January 2011, Brian Blase and Paul L. Winfree of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, predicted exactly what is happening today – the law will “disrupt existing employer-based coverage and create new distortions in the health insurance market.

The impossible has happened. For once, the unions have begun to echo what conservatives have argued for years. Now that we all agree “the unintended consequences of the ACA are severe,” can we focus on replacing the law?

10 responses to “The Tides are Turning on Obamacare

  1. It seems like the closer Obamacare gets to the “go live” date the more people oppose it. I was at my doctor’s office about a month ago and we were talking about my wife who is a part time school teacher. They reduced her hours to 49% (below 50% and you do not qualify for state healthcare). And the doctor said that he has been seeing this more and more. “We are becoming a nation of part time workers” he said. He believed Obamacare would push us further in that direction.

  2. It’s my understanding that the seed ideas for ‘Obamacare’ have their roots in the Heritage Foundation and that it has many similarities to ‘Romneycare.’ Is that true?

    • Heritage has been against Obamacare since the beginning. Also, what happened in Massachusetts showed the trouble with trying to solve the free-rider problem by paying more than the problem actually costs in the first place. If we’re all about “pragmatism” here, then the choice is clear. Even if they were completely identical (which they are far from being), states as “laboratories of democracy” means we can try something in the state then, realizing it doesn’t work, oppose it on the federal level.

      Here’s some more on the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy:

      • Thanks for the link. It began by answering my question.

        I also believe Obama prefers a single payer system. However, I do not see Obamacare as a first step in that direction. I believe that, as a pragmatist, he wanted to do something about making insurance available to all. So he figured he had to come with something less than what may be perceived as socialist or single payer since that would be a death sentence. So, as a strategy he decide to take some of the Heritage Foundation ideas and Romney care ideas in order to gain some bipartisan support. Clearly that backfired. It would be easy to be cynical here. Perhaps this correlates with the Republican Congressional leadership making their intentional decision to give Obama nothing that resembled a legislative victory of any sort, a decision to become the party of NO.

        • When you think more government involvement in healthcare is inherently a bad thing, saying “no” becomes a way to preserve against more bad effects.

          • Didn’t The Heritage Foundation suggest an individual mandate?

            I’d like to know what revisions the Heritage Foundation suggested in 1994 and why. That would be interesting.

            “Inherently bad?” Please ‘consider again.’ 🙂

            When running against Hillary, Obama was against it. Again, I believe it was his pragmatic attempt to bring in Republicans that made him change his mind. Ironically, the Republican claim then became: unconstitutional.

            • Here’s their Amicus brief during the SCOTUS case:

              Essentially, they say their mandate was different (for catastrophic care, not comprehensive), but now they would oppose both types anyway after more research. Even if you don’t buy that the ideas were fundamentally different, I don’t get why we’re so opposed to them changing their minds and realizing the true ramifications of their actions.

              If Obama is such a pragmatist, you would think he would take an idea that didn’t work and learn from it. I think the reason he added the mandate is because he couldn’t sell a single-payer system. And there is no possible way to reduce healthcare costs with his system, so he had to add it.

              • Tides come and go. If this thing ever gets a chance to get implemented, I trusting public opinion will become much more positive.

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