September 2017

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[personal profile] benveniste

I just getting over a week-long cold, which, combined with two news stories, got me thinking about the Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA or Obamacare.  And about pizza, of course.

The first story, of course, is the "Save American Workers Act of 2015" (H.R. 30) which was passed by the House.  The name of the bill is a classic bit of 1984-style newspeak; it doesn't save any American Workers at all.  What it does do is change the definition of full-time employment in a way to reduce the number of people qualifying for employer-provided healthcare coverage.  Opponents of the bill argue, correctly, as far as I can tell, that employers could and will reduce hours for non-exempt workers to avoid having to provide coverage or paying a "penalty/tax" to the IRS.

The House bill faces a certain filibuster attempt in the Senate, and if it survives that, still faces a certain veto by President Obama.  The votes for an override don't seem to be there, so that makes this an nothing more than a bit of political posturing.  The GOP will blame the Democrats for blocking what they call a jobs bill, and the Democrats will blame the GOP for attempting to take money out of workers pockets and put it in the pockets of greedy business owners.

The second story was the "outrage" of Harvard faculty and staff over increased employee-paid costs for healthcare.  The university's 2015 Benefits Open Enrollment Guide implies that this was due to the extra costs imposed by the ACA.  This was an old story; but apparently some conversative commentators were too busy before the holidays to notice.

You may remember back in 2012, many liberal groups called for a boycott of Papa John's because of statements made by CEO John Schnatter and that call continues today.  Mr. Schnatter's sins?  First, in an earnings call he gave an estimate that the price of the Papa John's pizza would go up by about $0.15 as a result of the ACA.  Second, in an interview he stated that it was "common sense" that some business owners would just cut employees hours so they wouldn't have to pay for health insurance for full-time employees.  So ironically, some of the same people at Harvard who joined the boycott now find, that yes, some costs of the ACA will be coming out of their pocket.  And even more ironically, Democrat opponents of H.R. 30 find themselves making the same argument that Mr. Schnatter made about employers cutting hours.

I don't think anyone should be surprised at this.  The "Affordable Health Care Act" did little more to make healthcare affordable than the "Save American Workers Act" saves workers.  What it did attempt to do was redistribute too-high health care costs, or as Dr. Gruber recently put it, "healthy people pay in and sick people get money."  The U.S. healthcare system remains hugely inefficient, with far too much money being spent on administration, paper pushing, jackpot lawsuits and defensive medicine.  Yet as a country, we still try to pretend that "somebody else" will pay for Obamacare.  You may remember, for example, that President Obama said, “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits–either now or in the future.”  Yet somehow, the plan that is now estimated to add between $100 billion and $150 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, and if H.R. 30 somehow passes you can add more billions to that.

If, like me, you believe that we as a society should provide all members of our society a basic level of healthcare, then you'd better suck it up and admit that we're all on "somebody duty,"  Everyone will pay for that benefit directly or indirectly.  And if, unlike me, you believe that business owners won't take advantages of the loopholes of a poorly written and thought-out law, then I suggest a slice of Papa John's pizza and a course in remedial reality.

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