Congress took a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” and for the 40th time, the vote failed.
For the 40th time, Congress took a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare,” and for the 40th time, the vote failed. The repeated opposition to the law has been led by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republicans who have pushed for its repeal more than three years after its passage.
After the individual mandate portion of the law was upheld as constitutional in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer, Republican leaders in Congress have continued to attack the law, turning now toward a strategy of “defunding the Obamacare” knowing they lack the the necessary support for a full repeal.
“If ordinary Washington rules apply, we can’t win this fight,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Wednesday during a conference call with Texas reporters. “We don’t have the votes, and we are unlikely to get the votes in closed-door meetings in Washington. The only way that we win this fight is if the American people rise up.”
As the partisan bickering continues on Capitol Hill, at least 48.6 million people still lack any coverage and 38 million more have only insufficient, partial coverage according to Census statistics. Additionally, the U.S. spends the most on health care compared with other developed countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — all are able to provide universal health care to its citizens for a fraction of the cost.
Beating a dead horse
The salient question is: why do Republicans insist on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a law that could extend coverage to 23 million Americans who lack any coverage? One possible explanation points to resistance from corporate America, which is now required to cover employee health care in workplaces with more than 50 employees.
Here’s how it works. Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with more than 50 employees will have to provide full-time workers with health care coverage or face a $2,000 fine per worker after the first 30 employees.
In retaliation, corporations have threatened to punish their employees by cutting hours and using other evasive measures to skirt employer mandate requirements. It became a contentious issue in late 2012 when executives for Papa John’s Pizza, Olive Garden and a handful of other corporations publicly came out against the mandate, sparking national debate about the employer requirement.
“We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry,” Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter was quoted as saying in Politico. “But our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare.”
That was in late 2012, but the Republican assault continues.
“The president is fond of saying these Obamacare votes are ‘meaningless’ — but I’d remind you he’s already signed seven bills repealing or delaying parts of the law,” Boehner said.
Indeed, Obama has caved a bit under the pressure, recently announcing a one year delay to the business mandate in order to give employers sufficient time to adapt to the new regulations. According to the Department of Treasury blog, administration officials say the employer coverage mandate will now be delayed until 2015, likely costing the federal government $4 billion in lost revenue that would have been collected from companies that did not follow the requirement.
It’s been viewed as a small victory and Republicans appear to see this as a momentum builder in the ongoing fight to repeal the law. “We’ll have to stick together and communicate,” Boehner said. “But this strategy is achievable. And it’s our best shot at actually getting rid of Obamacare. Executing this strategy doesn’t mean we can’t do other things on Obamacare as well. This is designed to be a strategy we can build on.”
Bolstering calls for repeal are some state reports, predicting that the mandate will cost businesses and individuals more for premiums than before. The Hill reports that Ohio’s state insurance department announced last week that individual health policies in Ohio will cost an average of 41 percent more next year. Similarly, plans available to small businesses will cost 18 percent more on average, state officials said.
Republicans complain about waste, but a universal health care system would guarantee coverage to all 313 million. The U.S. spent 17.6 percent of its GDP on health care in 2009, which is projected to go up to 20 percent by 2020.
The strength is still clearly in the Democrat’s corner, and they are still confident that the law is here to stay. “I suspect we don’t want to call them the Republicans anymore, but I think we ought to call them the Repeal-icans. Or perhaps the Repeal-ican’ts, because they’ve never been able to repeal anything,” said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).
Some of the hysterical rhetoric has died down in recent months, but some of the unfounded talk of “death panels” deciding whether to euthanize elderly Americans continues to drive opposition.
Outside of Capitol Hill, how does this affect the average American? A majority of likely U.S. voters still oppose Obamacare. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 42 percent of likely U.S. voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, while 53 percent view it unfavorably.
Affordable Care Act: How it affects the average American
Many still see the individual mandate as a burdensome requirement. Here’s how it works: the individual mandate requires that nearly everyone have health insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2014 or face a fine.
The individual mandate creates an incentive for more people, including healthy people, to get insurance by offering subsidies to help people pay for insurance bought through markets known as insurance exchanges.
The Washington Post reports that the law stipulates that “each state shall” establish an exchange. But Washington could be running the exchanges in one-third to half of states, where local officials have been moving slowly or openly resisting the idea. If it functions as planned, the exchanges should create a more competitive marketplace, lowering costs for consumers.
“That’s a very different dynamic for these companies, and it’s prodding them to be more aggressive and competitive in their pricing,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reform.
The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 23 million uninsured people will gain coverage through exchanges and that all but five million of them will qualify for subsidies.