Is All Opposition to Obamacare Just Political Posturing?

In today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman echoes a sentiment that other supporters of the Affordable Care Act have been ramping up in the past several weeks: that the ACA is starting to look like it’s going to work, and that opposition to it, at this point, stems from the political damage that successful Democratic health care reform would hold for those who didn’t support it.

Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass.

Now, this probably isn’t wrong. I think most people are willing to grant that Republicans who have gone on record with bitter opposition to the ACA are probably aware that they would be hurt should the law turn into success. Whether or not it has them “nerving up for another round of fiscal blackmail” is not really the sort of thing I write about, but I’ll offer a few things to at least consider before taking Krugman at his word that opposition to Obamacare is, at this point, a purely political phenomenon.

First of all, supporters of the act are quick to point out that successes already abound in states such as California and New York, where predictions have shown that premiums are going to start dropping over the next year.

In California, insurers came in with bids running significantly below expectations ; in New York, it appears that premiums will be cut roughly in half .

Not only does this ignore the substantial complications with both of these cases (CA’s low rates are based on a somewhat misleading comparison of this year’s small employer plans with next year’s individual rates, and New York’s drop in rates is limited and due mostly to the fact that Obamacare actually represents less of a regulatory burden on insurance premiums than the existing community ratings in the state ), but it also totally leaves out predictions of rising premiums in states like Indiana, Texas, and Ohio, to name a few. The evidence that the Affordable Care Act is a cost-effective slam dunk, an objective observer would probably agree, is generally ambiguous at best. Isn’t it possible, then, that not all opposition to the health care act falls under political posturing? Might some parties be legitimately concerned about the potential for even higher health care costs?

Furthermore, the idea that opposition to Obamacare is at this point a political ploy fails to consider that Republicans are not the only opponents of the ACA. In a very publicized move last week, Terry O’Sullivan, President of the Laborers International Union of America, joined the heads of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in coming out against the President’s health care reform.

In a letter sent to President Obama on Thursday, and copied to Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the president of Laborers International Union of North America, Terry O’Sullivan, warned that he anticipates the Affordable Care Act will come with “destructive consequences.”

O’Sullivan cites particular fears for construction workers, who are often covered by multiemployer plans. Under the Affordable Care Act, there is a $63 per-person penalty for such plans, a tax that O’Sullivan anticipates will come out of the pockets of the workers he represents.

The repercussions of an increase in the cost of health insurance will extend beyond this initial deduction. It will dismantle current collective bargaining agreements, thus making union companies less competitive and nonunion companies more attractive.

And O’Sullivan is not alone in his concerns. The presidents of three other unions , the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Unite Here, sent a joint letter to congressional Democrats last week with a similar appeal. Also, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has purchased print ads in opposition to the law.

Union leaders seem also to recognize that the ACA hold serious potential to motivate a shift away from employing full-time workers toward part-time workers. Now, it should be clear that their motivations and alternative suggestions differ substantially from those of the Republicans, but that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make. Clearly, the law is and can be opposed for reasons that are not purely political. Those who refuse to recognize this only undermine their credibility in supporting the ACA.

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