President Barack Obama was often accused of playing ruthless “Chicago politics” by his Republican enemies. But Obama’s biggest mistake lay not in cynicism but misplaced idealism.
Obama Mistake No. 5: Believing that public and private employers would voluntarily comply with the law.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week. Yet many employers claimed–without having to offer proof–that they couldn’t afford it.
So they limited part-time workers’ hours to 29 per week instead.
Obama was clearly surprised at this. But he shouldn’t have been.
Greed-fueled businessmen always try to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it.
The Act doesn’t penalize companies for not providing health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.
- Moved fulltime workers into part-time positions;
- Refused to provide their employees with medical insurance; and
- Avoided fines for non-compliance with the law.
Some employers openly showed their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers have any obligation to those who make their profits a reality.
One was John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who said:
- The prices of his pizzas would go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
- He would pass along these costs to his customers.
“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” he told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”
Thus, President Obama should have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.
This would have produced two substantial benefits:
- All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
- Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.
Employers would thus feel: “I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, so I should be getting fulltime work in return.”
If Obama considered this option, he decided against pressing for it.
Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.
Throughout his campaign to win support for the ACA, Obama had repeatedly promised: “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.”
But the 906 pages of the law held a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.
The law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans–so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law.
If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did.
But many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.
Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare–charged and ridiculed as a liar.
Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show,” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.
The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor. Since we can’t, you must be a liar.
All of which points to a final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli: Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil….
Former Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said that, if she were elected, she would seek incremental changes in the ACA. That possibility became moot when she lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump.
Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants a single-payer plan.
A single-payer plan would prove simpler and more comprehensive than the ACA. But the chances of its passing a Republican-dominated Congress are absolutely zero.
The election of Donald Trump seems to have finally doomed the ACA–except for one thing: Since it became law, in 2010, 22 million Americans who had never before obtained healthcare insurance now have it.
This includes even Republicans who voted for Trump–without realizing they would be losing their only tie to medical care. And now many of them are finally realizing this truth.
Thus, Republicans in the House and Senate now find themselves besieged by angry constituents at town hall meetings.
These Republicans care nothing for Americans who would be left without medical care. But they do care about their own futures–as members of Congress.
This has led to three schisms among Republicans:
- Those who still demand the complete repeal of “Obamacare.”
- Those who want the Act repealed and then replaced with an entirely different healthcare plan–which Republicans have yet to agree on. Developing this could literally take years–during which time former ACA members would have no insurance.
- Those who want Republicans to first create an alternative healthcare plan, win its Congressional approval, and then repeal the Act.
Republicans expect Democrats to sign on with their “Obamacare replacement plan.” But Democrats have made it clear: “You repeal it, you’re on your own in replacing it.”
Republicans spent eight years demanding the repeal of “Obamacare.” But now they fear that its repeal will lead to the repeal of their own political ambitions.