In an earlier post I copied Ann Wagner’s email response to me after I wrote her asking that she respect the needs of her constituents and stand up to the faction of her party that wants to defund Obamacare or else. I was pretty amazed by her double-talk when she tried to pretend that she had “voted to keep the government open” by sending a DOA Continuing Resolution that defunds the ACA to the Senate.
What didn’t amaze me, though were her distorted claims abut the ACA. They’re familiar to anyone who has paid attention to Republican anti-Obamacare jabber. To her credit, though, Wagner did try to give a local example of what she deems the disastrous consequences of Obamacare:
As each day passes, more and more families are feeling the pain of Obamacare right here in the St. Louis region. Many of you might have heard a few days ago that BJC Healthcare can no longer afford to provide health insurance to its part-time employees. This is just another example of the coming economic disaster Obamacare poses when a large, highly respected healthcare company such as BJC Healthcare cannot afford healthcare for its own workers.
What Wagner does not tell us – although the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story she links to hints at it – is that BJC has been having plenty of problems other than Obamacare, problems which earlier resulted in 160 layoffs and are pretty likely to be behind their efforts to cut costs on employee health care:
Like other health care systems across the state and country, we are not immune to what is going on in the health care environment,” she said. “We’ve made cost-cutting measures to offset the impact of sequestration and to prepare for the impact of not expanding Medicaid.”
Aside from sequestration and the Medicaid expansion issue, BJC’s reductions are necessitated by a drop in elective medical services among health care consumers. Because they now face higher out of pocket payments for care, some consumers are putting off care for the time being, she said.
Let’s see. If the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature had only expanded Medaid, BJC would have been better off. If GOP politicians in Washington hadn’t forced the sequestration cuts down our throats, BJC wouldn’t be better off still. And finally, if our free-market insurance delivery system – the one that the GOP is fighting tooth-and-nail to defend – wasn’t unable to control costs without resorting to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients who then defer care, things would be all ducky for BJC. But let’s, Ann Wagner, blame it all on Obamacare; it makes a much simpler and, for Republicans, a much more conveneint story.
Nor am I the only person who thinks the GOP jobs and Obamacare narrative is a bit empty when it comes to actual content. Kaiser Health News reports that some employers are using Obamacare as an excuse for cost-cutting measures that were underway long before the law. Others may actually be considering cutting part-timers hours back in order to weasel out of the ACA employer mandate as some claim BJC is doing, but as business advisor Juliana Reno observed on the PBS newshour earlier this evening:
If you, as an employer, try to crunch down hours below 30, you are going to lose some employees. The second problem is, it’s not going to cost you in terms of penalties, but it’s going to cost you a lot more in terms of recruiting and training and administrative stuff, because now you have to hire more employees to have the same amount of man hours worked.
As a consequence, economists don’t expect to see large numbers of employers who might be tempted to try this ploy – also bearng in mind that this part of the employer mandate affects only a small number of business to start with. Actually, if anti-Obamacare fanatics in congress would give the repeal-the-law refrain a rest and get down to some real work, glitches of this sort, insofar as they are a real problem, could be easily remedied.
But a note of caution: don’t expect the facts of the situation to keep GOPers like Rep. Wagner from desperately grasping at all potential anti-Obamacare straws. They’re starting to get frantic as Obamacare is set to become real – no longer the bogeyman in the next room, but soon to be a fairy godmother wavng a right-to-healthcare wand over the uninsured.