Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2011

BUSINESS COMMUNITY NOT SOLD ON HEALTH CARE REPEAL.... To hear congressional Republicans tell it, to support American businesses is to support gutting last year's health care reform law. But do American businesses themselves agree?

To be sure, Republican-friendly lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business are on board with Republicans' repeal plans. But the Wall Street Journal notes today that the sentiment is not universal.

The big-company Business Roundtable is quieter: Many of its members doubt the Obama law does enough to restrain costs, but regard repeal as neither practical nor wise. Wal-Mart, for one, echoes this, saying, in effect: We don't want to go back to where we were.

At the National Business Group on Health, a collection of nearly 300 big employers, President Helen Darling, a former corporate-benefit administrator and Republican Senate staffer, says about executives who call for repeal: "If they really understood it, they wouldn't."

"I don't think we'll get a better solution in the U.S. in our lifetime" she said. "If it gets repealed, or gutted, we'll have to start over and we'll be worse off."

The piece goes on to note that, from the perspective of a CEO, the Affordable Care Act actually offers a lot to like, including lower costs on employers, tax breaks for small businesses, an eventual end to an expensive "Cobra" program, and a host of ideas intended to slow the unsustainable pace of cost increases.

Indeed, we keep seeing more evidence that, as designed, employers are taking advantage of breaks included in the law that Republicans are eager to gut.

Let's also not forget the "uncertainty" scourge the GOP has been warning us about, which would be made considerably worse if the Republicans' repeal campaign had any success.

As Kevin Drum noted a couple of weeks ago, "[I]t really is possible that both the healthcare sector and the business community in general, after they take a look at what kind of chaos might ensue from ad hoc partial defunding, will put some real pressure on Republicans to stand down on this. That would be an interesting turn of events, no?"

The WSJ report added, "Talking about repeal of the health law may be a winning political strategy for Republicans, a rare way to please both workers and business executives. As long as they don't actually succeed in doing it."

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Who are the business executives who are calling for health care repeal? Names and companies. I know some business associations -- US Chamber comes to mind again -- are calling for it. But which business executives.

Posted by: jpeckjr on January 13, 2011 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

America's real 'Continental Divide:'
Republicans can politic, but can't govern.
Democrats can govern, but can't politic.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 13, 2011 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I have trouble with your assertion that "[F]rom the perspective of a CEO", tax breaks on small businesses are necessarily a positive thing. I suppose that most CEOs believe in competition in the abstract, but this is probably only as private citizens. Since small businesses are a potential threat to any CEO's company, I'd bet that, as CEOs, most would oppose tax breaks for small businesses.

Posted by: HydroCabron on January 13, 2011 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

What else can the cons do except threaten to repeal? They're the ones who whipped up the opposition to it on the right. They've painted themselves into a corner and are stuck there until they can find a way out. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if Obamacare became the cons' rallying cry far into the future (and certainly through 2012) like abortion and taxes.

Posted by: CDW on January 13, 2011 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I call BS on repeal of PI subsidies as it seems to be a new political canard [red meat] to chum the naive base waters. Chum which they would likely portion out over the next decade saying "The opposition party is obstructing repeal! Wahh Wahh!

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 13, 2011 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

It is worth noting that the current, crappy health care system disproportionately favors large corporations.

Large corporations can often off-shore jobs to avoid paying health care costs for employees.

When large corporations DO have to hire U.S.-based employees, they have two additional distinct advantages over smaller companies. First, large corporations are better positioned to have H.R. departments that can address employee benefits. Relatively speaking, it costs more time and money for a small business to get sidetracked into handling non-core business administrative tasks.

Second, large corporations are better positioned to self-fund health "insurance." Indeed, under federal ERISA law, plans that are "self-funded," meaning that the corporation sets aside a fund to pay for health care costs and simply hires a company (e.g. Blue Cross) to administer the plan, are expressly not deemed to be "insurance plans."

What this means is that all state laws that regulate insurance do not apply to "self-funded" plans.

Most small companies cannot afford to "self-fund" health care costs and consequently are at an economic disadvantage, since all the plans that they offer will be subject to greater regulation.

Because the Obama plan basically preserves this system, I am not surprised that large corporations would more or less want to keep the current system as it is; large, established corporations want to maintain their economic edge over smaller competitors. But I still expect large corporations to work through the Chamber to continue to tweak the laws and regulations to make the environment even more favorable (Nobody ever tells big business to stop being "purists", to be happy with what they have, and to stop lobbying for more money.)

Posted by: square1 on January 13, 2011 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

And not just business execs. I would guess that smart Republican strategists - of which there are more than a few - realize that being able to blame everything that isn't perfect about the healthcare system over the next six years on Obama and the Dems will be a wonderful position to be in.

And if HCR works - well, that won't be news (because it will be contained in dry statistics that reporters won't understand), and in any case voters won't reward Democrats for it (because they never vote out of gratitude).

So they're happy to bring repeal up for a vote, to satisfy the crazies, but they'll be happy to see it fail. They'll see to it that it wins in the House and loses in the Senate - that way they can fulfill their commitment to the crazies while still being able to use their votes & money in 2012.

Really a win-win from the GOP's point of view.

Posted by: Basilisc on January 13, 2011 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Most small companies cannot afford to "self-fund" health care costs and consequently are at an economic disadvantage, since all the plans that they offer will be subject to greater regulation."
-square 1

Even worse off are the self employed, who cannot deduct their health insurance as a business cost.

Posted by: DAY on January 13, 2011 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Of course their campaign against health care was a campaign against a staw man of their own making. As the polling shows, people love the components of health care, but not the package because the package has been attacked (big, bad, complex, scary), not the specifics ('cause everyone likes those).

Posted by: golack on January 13, 2011 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have been caught squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle, causing untold disproportionate readings of just what is left in the tube, and what they've spilled on the counter-top! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 13, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

It's the new abortion. They'll keep nibbling on the edges in order to keep the base angry/happy, but the last thing they truly want is to win and have the issue go away. Repeal of Roe v. Wade would be the end of the GOP; repeal of ACA could be the same. They want an issue, not a policy.

Posted by: danimal on January 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Is there anything House and Senate Republican leaders have said that is not a lie? Is there any issue where they do not stand against most of our people and the best interests of our nation?

Posted by: max on January 13, 2011 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

@max in a word... NO

Posted by: Jaime on January 13, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Danimal nails it. I was thinking the exact same thing as I read this post.

Republican'ts can't win on governing. They CAN win on railing against a big scary issue, whether its abortion, the ACA, or government taking your guns and bibles.

Posted by: Gridlock on January 13, 2011 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Ah Rupert, when it comes time, we can always rely on you to protect the bottom line.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on January 13, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I absolutely adore that quote from the WSJ. Has there ever been a better description of the Republicans tactics? Rile the base up, do nothing. Why anyone takes them seriously when they actually state this as their modus operandi, I will never know.

Posted by: Julene on January 13, 2011 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK



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