My ObamaCare surprise

Last week at a conference on the new health care law I got a big surprise.

While Washington politicians are in a never-ending fight over President Obama’s health care reform many of the nation’s top insurance companies, brokers and major employers have long ago moved beyond the bitter debate in Washington. Even more than other Americans, they can’t understand a government shut down over the plan.

Unlike Americans who tell pollsters they don’t like the new law and find it confusing, the business professionals dealing with the day-to-day reality of the new health insurance landscape accept the Affordable Care Act as straight forward approach to begin cutting the rising cost of health care for people and companies.


At the conference, sponsored by the Sun Life Financial Inc., these health care and corporate professionals pointed to reductions in the expense health care puts on small businesses with less than 50 workers. And they think people who work for small companies – as well as part time workers-- will get a better deal from public marketplaces for insurance than from most existing employer plans for part-timers.

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The business leaders are thinking about how the new law allows employees at big companies more freedom to decide what they want covered by the money provided to employees for health care.

They are looking forward to employers being freed to focus on employee retention and motivation beyond health care plans.

And despite all the energy Republicans have dedicated to fight health care reform one of the nation’s leading health care economists Jonathan Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said about 80 percent of Americans are going to feel no change at all from ObamaCare.

Gruber helped to design the health care reform in Massachusetts under Republican Mitt Romney and advised the Obama administration on its plan.

He estimates 17 percent of Americans will be demonstrably “better off” with lower cost insurance and better benefits while about three percent will face higher premiums and be “worse off.”

The recent demands from Republicans in Washington for a one-year delay in starting the government plan also struck the health care experts as damaging to companies and individuals. They see it as a cynical, political effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act under the guise of “fairness.”

Professor Gruber, the keynote speaker at the forum, has previously estimated that the one-year delay of the individual mandate for all Americans to buy insurance would result in 24 million more Americans being uninsured.

He calculated that the average health insurance premiums for Americans would rise 27 percent because of a delay.

Gruber’s numbers have support from an updated study by the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities. It similarly concluded that a one year delay would result in millions more Americans being uninsured and higher health insurance premiums.

“The delay would adversely affect millions of Americans,” the Center reported. “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that such a delay would cause 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014 and result in higher premiums for many others. It also would disrupt the new health insurance exchanges just as the open enrollment season is about to begin.”

“Specifically, a one-year delay of the individual mandate would reduce the expected coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by nearly 85 percent, relative to current law, according to a recent CBO estimate. Delaying the individual mandate also would raise premiums for health insurance purchased in the individual market in 2014, CBO finds.”

What the experts are saying is that the proposed delay is really an effort to guarantee that the law will not work.

At the end of the one year it would allow critics to say “see, we told you so.” This would be like an arsonist complaining that a building was too flammable and personally setting it on fire to prove his point.

New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that each of us is entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.

If Republicans and conservative commentators are going to condemn the individual mandate they are going to have to deal with the business leaders who pay for health insurance, the brokers who sell the insurance and the experts who study it.

And their facts add to the high disapproval rates House Republicans are getting in polls for shutting down the government over the new health care law. And guess what? Those poll numbers are even worse than ObamaCare’s numbers.