BEAM: Neither Side Is Giving Ground On Obamacare

Americans are sending out mixed messages on Obamacare. Although many aren’t convinced the Affordable Care Act will help them personally, they don’t want the health care law to be repealed.

Only 41 percent of those surveyed in the latest United Technologies/ National Journal Congressional poll think the law will help the country overall. Forty-eight percent believe it will make things worse.

Among people who don’t have health care coverage, 58 percent think the law will make things better and 30 percent think it won’t. However, when pollsters asked whether Obamacare would make things better for the middle class and “people like you and your family,” 49 and 46 percent, respectively, thought it would make things worse. Only 36 and 35 percent thought it would make things better.

Those who were polled were also asked three questions: Did they want the law to be repealed, want to wait and see how it takes effect or add more money to help make it work better. Only 36 percent wanted outright repeal. Thirty percent want to wait and see what happens, and 27 percent want to provide more money to implement the law. Among nonwhites, 60 percent oppose repeal of the law.

President Obama’s administration didn’t help the law that bears his name when it announced that employers would have an extra year before they have to offer medical coverage to their workers or pay a fine. National Journal, a political news magazine in Washington, D.C., said the delay means “the public appears convinced that the law’s implementation is going poorly.”

Why did the president decide to delay that part of the law?

Administration officials said they listened to businesses that wanted more time to implement Obamacare. However, there is also a political motive. Congressional Democrats, who have to run in 2014, will benefit from the delay. On the flip side, Republicans also benefit. They can insist the delay proves the law is unworkable.

Even though businesses may have wanted more time, we still got a preview last week of what is going to happen at many companies when that year’s delay is up. A New Orleans area businessman told the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship he has already decided to drop coverage for his 65 full-time employees.

Lawrence “Larry” Katz of Metairie is president and chief executive officer of six Dot Diners. His company is above the 50 employee threshold that exempts some businesses from providing health care coverage to their employees. Katz said the $2,000-per-employee penalty is less than the cost of offering required coverage under Obamacare, according to a report in The Times-Picayune.

“We are caught in the unintended donut hole,” Katz told the committee that is chaired by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “And thus, we will be saddled with the options of either dropping our current health insurance plans, and pay the penalty, or cover 100 percent of our employees and incur its resultant much higher costs.

“I have unfortunately made the decision to quit offering coverage as soon as the employer mandate kicks in,” he said. “So, beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, my employees and I will become part of the federal system and the company will be saddled with a $70,000 after-tax penalty.”

Landrieu said she would work to fix the problems cited by Katz, but defends Obamacare, even knowing her support for it will be a central issue in her 2014 re-election campaign. She was also quick to defend the law when it was criticized by U.S. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho.

“Thank you, Sen. Risch, but we’re not going to go back to the time before people had affordable insurance,” Landrieu said.

She also praised those parts of the law that give tax credits to small businesses to help them provide coverage for their workers, that eliminate lifetime or yearly caps on coverage and that give coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Republicans in the House aren’t swayed by the arguments of Landrieu and others who defend Obamacare. They have voted 39 times to repeal the law, knowing it has majority support in the Senate.

Members of the House come from election districts that either heavily favor or strongly oppose Obama. Most Republicans are more concerned about their own re-election than their party being able to win presidential elections. The Associated Press said there is less middle ground to navigate, and that isn’t likely to change.

Obama is just as determined to demonstrate his signature legislative achievement isn’t going to change much either. The predominantly nonwhite voters who helped re-elect the president told pollsters the Affordable Care Act will make things better for six groups of people — those who don’t have health insurance, the poor, the country overall, people who are 65 and older, the middle class and “people like you and your family.” The percentage of non-whites who believe the law will make things better ranged from 54 to 68 percent.

As you can see, the extreme positions on Obamacare create a perfect formula for gridlock in the nation’s capital.

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