Conservatives vs. Obamacare: Looking at (and debunking) part of the case against the ACA

September 7, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 7, 2013

The conservative crusade against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continues apace.

Let’s be clear, to borrow a phrase from the president: There are a number of reasons why the health care reform law is so loathed on the right. To cite just one factor: It passed Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote.

And yes, this is a big and complicated law that tackles a huge swathe of our society and economy. There’s a chance that the so-called Obamacare legislation will work brilliantly. There’s a chance that Obamacare will fail spectacularly. My hunch is that the law will work, but in the manner that many large projects work — that is, imperfectly.

Glenn Kessler, the main Fact Checker columnist for The Washington Post, had a post Tuesday morning examining three particular claims made by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a television ad inveighing against Obamacare.

Here’s how Cruz starts off the spot: “There’s bipartisan agreement that Obamacare isn’t working. Democratic Senator Max Baucus, the lead author of Obamacare, says it’s a huge train wreck.” 

Baucus, an influential Montana senator, did in fact say “I just see a huge train wreck coming down” when discussing Obamacare with Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, in an April 2013 hearing. But Baucus was not directly criticizing the Affordable Care Act with that comment; instead, he was issuing a stern warning about the lack of public information about the law and the potentially massive problems that might result from widespread public ignorance.

As Kessler noted, Baucus in July of this year wrote an editorial praising the Obama administration for adjustments it had made in implementing the law. “I am in regular contact with the White House to discuss implementation,” the senator wrote. “With education and outreach efforts ramping up in recent weeks, I am confident the administration’s rollout plan is on track.”

In light of subsequent developments, Baucus’ April comment doesn’t seem quite as relevant as Cruz indicates in the advertisement.

The Cruz ad is sponsored by the Senate Conservatives Fund, the group behind That site hosts a three-page fact sheet about the Affordable Care Act that is packed with alarming information.

Some of the information in the fact sheet is true — if speculative. For example, polls this spring found great skepticism in the business community about Obamacare. Forty-eight percent of small-business owners expect the law to be bad for their businesses, and 52 percent fear it will reduce the quality of health care, this Gallup poll found. Seventy-seven percent said Obamacare makes offering health-care coverage for employees more expensive, and 71 percent say it makes it harder from them to hire workers, according to a recent quarterly U.S. Chamber of Commerce small-business survey. Since the law is still coming online, it will be interesting to see how those evaluations change, for better or worse, in coming months.

Now, as Obamacare critics regularly claim, there are indications that the law has already hurt the economy. Per Gallup, 41 percent of small-business owners said they had held off on plans to hire new employees, 38 percent they’d pulled back on business expansion plans, 19 percent had cut their number of workers and 18 percent had dropped some employees to part-time status. (The fact sheet actually lists these first two findings.) Even assuming that some of these moves are being wrongly attributed to Obamacare, this is solid evidence of a negative effect of the legislation.

Unfortunately, a lot of criticisms that the Senate Conservatives Fund levels against the Affordable Care Act are kind of shaky. I’ll look at a few of them in an upcoming post.

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