Honest debate with Obamacare opponents not possible

Thanks to Jeff Wilkinson, reporter for The State, for his front page story yesterday on the impact of Obamacare on businesses.  As these now familiar pieces go you start with one business owner (usually as in this case a restaurateur with hundreds of employees) complaining about how the healthcare reform is forcing him to cut employee hours which makes it hard to recruit workers, stops him from expanding to meet demand, worries him about increased health insurance premiums, and creates uncertainty.

But unlike most of these almost scripted “the sky-is-falling” anti-Obamacare pieces, Wilkinson not only seeks out the countervailing opinion (and facts) but reports them in an effective informative story. 

He caught up with me while I was out of town late this past Friday afternoon.  Here was my part of the story:

But Frank Knapp, president and chief executive of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said that the hospitality industry is facing the most challenges from health care reform because they need so many employees, pay the least and have the highest turnover.

He noted that 96 percent of all businesses in the state have fewer than 50 employees and won’t be required to provide health insurance. And, he said, large manufacturing firms that provide health insurance have already positioned themselves to absorb any new costs. 

 “This has always been a tempest in a teapot,” Knapp said. “The opponents have always targeted that little sliver who, maybe in 2015, will be required to provide health insurance, or their premiums will go up.”

He added that those business owners with fewer than 50 employees could be better off with cheaper rates for themselves and healthier employees because they would have better access to health care.

“We are so close to a revolution in health care insurance,” he said. “People are going to be surprised.  There are going to be a lot of options for small business owners. It’s an exciting time.”

Very accurately reported except for the part about premiums going up.  I was probably talking too fast, as usual, for Wilkinson to understand that I was referring to penalty fees, not premiums, a larger employer might have to pay in 2015 if they do not offer affordable health insurance to their employees. 

 And as expected, I received a message from a business person who took exception to my comments in the story.  He wrote in his email:

I was interested to read the comments attributed to you in the The State today. You mention that 96% of employers won’t be impacted anyway and that it is a “tempest in a teapot”. I find that statistic entirely misleading since it equates employers, such as my firm (with a few employees), in the same manner as an employer with 40 employees. Each of us is counted as one employer. If you consider the number of employees impacted by ACA, it is sharply different than the percentage you quoted. A large number of employees work in multi-unit restaurant or retail businesses that are “large” for purposes of this law. If we are about to have a “revolution in health insurance”, at least we should do it honestly

Well, I agree about the need for “honesty” in the debate.  Too bad that honesty has been absent from the opponents of the healthcare reform.  And unfortunately the comments from my critic appear to be just a continuation of the lack of honesty.

The gentlemen calls my use of the factual statistic that 96% of the state’s small businesses have fewer than 50 employees and thus won’t be required to offer health insurance a misleading statement.  The reason he says (and I am trying to understand his logic) is that I don’t take into account that his few-employee business is counted in that 96% the same as a 40-employee business.

Well, he and the 40-worker business owner are accurately included in the statistic I used since it refers to businesses with less than 50 workers.  Even better, Obamacare treats them the same by not requiring either to offer health insurance.  That’s a good thing and something the South Carolina Small Business Chamber lobbied Congress to include in the Act.  So I don’t understand the reader’s beef except that it was a poor segue to a new convoluted and dishonest argument. 

The reader attempts to say that the real issue is the total number of employees that work in larger businesses that will be required by Obamacare (again not until 2015) to either offer affordable health insurance or pay a penalty fee. 

This is a good example of how the opponents of Obamacare work their magic. 

For well over three years the rhetoric of the opposition has been about how bad Obamacare is going to be for small business owners.  But now that reality is hitting the deceived public right in the face with the fact that very few small businesses will be required to provide employee health insurance, the opponents must find a new twist to confuse the public.

Apparently, according to the anti-Obamacare crowd, it is now the total number of employees working for businesses with 50 or more employees that is the important statistic not the embarrassingly tiny percentage of small businesses that might be negatively impacted by the law.  The opponents know that healthcare reform supporters have nearly won the “small business” issue so they’re ready to dump that talking point and move onto another.

The Obamacare opposition doesn’t really want an “honest” debate.  They want to continue to mislead and fear monger.  But those tactics will no longer work in a few months when the health insurance exchanges open and small business owners find out the beneficial options they have for helping themselves and their employees under Obamacare.

If you want to know what those options will be, contact me at sbchamber@scsbc.org.
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