Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Does Early Evidence Point to Success of ACA?

Early anecdotes, statistics, and honest assessments by small business observers all suggest that the conservative narrative against the Affordable Care Act is based more on what the conservative paradigm tells them the outcome should be--not what the outcome actually is.  Joan McCarter at Daily Kos has compiled some of the evidence:
There's more than just anecdotal evidence that the small business tax credit has spurred many more business to provide insurance to their employees. Last fall, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation reported a nine percent increase in businesses offering coverage, and the Los Angeles Times featured a story earlier this month reporting that "[m]ajor insurers around the country are reporting that a growing number of small businesses are signing up to give their workers health benefits, a sign of potential progress for the nation's battered healthcare system."
Even in a down economy with very high unemployment, being able to offer workers health benefits is a huge boon to small businesses. It is, incidentally, also good news for insurers, who've gained a lot of new customers. So the U.S. Chamber's zeal for repeal certainly isn't shared by the businesses they purport to represent, but apparently just those mega-corporations that actually comprise their membership. So the only conclusion that makes any sense is that the U.S. Chamber is operating on the basis of pure ideology, rather than what the average American business would want.
The insistence on repeating the conservative narrative sans facts has been politically and materially hazardous for organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has lost major corporations as members, as well as the cooperation of local chambers, because of its extremist ideology and unwillingness to objectively assess the economic effects of the legislation. In other words, people with genuine business and economic interests reject the conservative non-arguments for economic reasons. As Suzy Khimm writes in Mother Jones:
Angry about the lobbying behemoth's full-bore opposition to Democratic climate-change legislation, Apple, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, and a handful of other blue-chip corporations quit the Chamber. A few months later, about a dozen local Chambers of Commerce publicly broke away from the group, arguing that the national organization had swung too far to the right and no longer represented its members' views. Now, some of the same questions are beginning to surface over the Chamber's hard-line stance on health care. Since the new Congress has begun, the group has come out swinging against "Obamacare," boosting conservative claims that reform is killing businesses and the economy. "It's time to go back to the drawing board," said Tom Donohue, the Chamber's chief executive officer, at his annual address last week. "The Chamber was a leader in the fight against this particular bill—and thus we support legislation in the House to repeal it." Could another civil war erupt within the Chamber over health care reform? Given that full repeal isn't politically feasible any time soon, a repeat of 2009's defections seems unlikely, and the Chamber itself has begun adopting a more targeted approach to submarining reform. But when it comes to the Chamber's constituency outside the beltway, some local branches say they don't agree with the national Chamber's stance on repeal.
Neither the Kos nor the Mother Jones pieces weigh the evidence against the criticisms of the left (and remember--more people believe the ACA doesn't go far enough than believe it goes too far). We know the legislation doesn't go far enough fast enough, and that single payer would have been more fiscally responsible and successful in terms of the policy objective of universal coverage. But the news of the ACA's early success doesn't undermine those arguments, and it should serve to make the public suspicious of arguments from both the right and the center against single payer. If the Chamber, and its ideological constituency, can't get it right on center-right reform, there's really no reason to trust their dismissals of more progressive reform, should the opportunity to make that case arise in the near future (importantly: Many important groups never stopped arguing for it, and those groups simultaneously oppose repeal of the ACA).

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