FACT: Obamacare only gives subsidies to families that are WORKING.
When the sober, affable E.J. Dionne complains that our health care debate is “stupid,” you know things gotten silly.
The right’s fear-mongering of a totalitarian takeover of the 2009-2010 gave way to the theoretical job-killing of 2011-2013. When Obamacare’s open enrollment arrived with the best job growth in half a decade, Republicans seized on the gift of a bungled roll out. Once Healthcare.gov got nearly all the fixes it needed, conservatives invented a bailout for insurers focused on an obscure mechanism in the law that also exists in George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D.
But even Republicans recognized the flimsiness of that argument. That’s why they immediately seized upon a new Congressional Budget Office report that the health law will reduce the labor force by an equivalent of 2 million jobs.
Of course, they ignored that the same report said their so-called bailout actually will save taxpayers $8 billions along with the projections that the law cuts the deficit, lowers the unemployment rate and offers premiums 15% less than expected.
The most dishonest on the right said the law kills jobs. The more honest said it merely disincentivizes work. National Review‘s Charles Cooke used it as proof that the law attacks the American work ethic and President Obama wants to “transmute the safety net into a smothering, ambient cocoon.”
Forget the argument that Obamacare’s coverage is too thin, too expensive and too restrictive. Suddenly the law is so good that Americans will no longer leave the hovering wheelchairs because their Obamcare feeding tubes are too snug.
Republicans have a valid argument that the law may disincentivize work for one group — young people who can stay on their parents’ coverage until the age of 26. This incentives them to continue education, experiment with professions or “find themselves.” And it’s also a provision that Republicans want to keep.
Obamacare only offers subsidies and subsidized coverage to families where at least one parent WORKS. It encourages people on Medicaid to earn more and keep their coverage.
What the law disincentivizes is OVERWORK.
Americans work harder than anyone in the industrialized world. We work 1,800 hours annually, 400 more hours than the Norwegians and 330 more hours than the French. For this we get less vacations and the most expensive health care system in the world with far from the best results.
“If someone comes to you and says I’ve decided to retire, or I’ve decided to stay home with my family, or I’ve decided to spend my time doing my hobby — they don’t feel bad about it, they feel good about it,” CBO Director Doug Elmendorf explained to Congress. “And we don’t sympathize, we say congratulations. And we don’t say they’ve lost their job, we say they’ve chosen to leave their job.”
This disincentivizes work argument is an update of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” jag. In 2012, Ezra Klein explained the critical lack of understanding at the core of such an argument:
The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it.
The stupidest part of our health care debate is that we don’t admit that we already pay for each other’s health care.
Since 1986, we’ve shouldered the price of emergency rooms being obligated not to turn anyone away. We pay for each other when we reach 65, when we can’t work, when we can’t find work. Any time someone doesn’t see a doctor because of cost, we pay — either in more expensive treatment later or a loss of someone contributing to our society.
You can say that Obamacare disincentivizes this broken system that exacerbates income equality by flooding money to the top at such a rapid pace that a billionaire feels he works harder collecting it than a laborer does digging a hole.
But what Obamacare really does is incentivize is a life where we are freer to pursue happiness, even as it incentivizes those people who don’t want workers to have that freedom to ignore the extraordinary costs of being poor.
[Photo by Gabriel | Flickr]