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Monday, Dec 22, 2014
Editorials

Fight Obamacare, not allies

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Evidence continues to mount that Obamacare’s implementation will be, as Senate President Harry Reid put it, a “train wreck.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, not scheduled to go into significant effect until January, already is hurting employers and employees.

For instance, United Parcel Services last week announced it planned to eliminate health benefits for working spouses, in part because of higher costs related to the law.

The University of Virginia did the same thing after discovering the act’s provisions would add $7.3 million to its health care bill next year.

As The Tampa Tribune found, the law is causing Hillsborough Community College and St. Petersburg College to cut the hours adjunct professors work, because if they work 30 or more hours a week they are entitled to coverage.

The law’s mandate that companies with 50 or more workers must provide employees health insurance or pay a fine is already chilling growth.

A recent Gallup poll found that 41 percent of small businesses have delayed plans to hire new employees and 38 percent held off on expansion plans because of the law.

Another 19 percent of the respondents had laid off workers or cut back their hours.

All these and many more problems underscore the importance of Congress — and the president — overhauling a law that thoroughly entangles the government in personal health-care decisions.

Although Americans are increasingly dubious about the law, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is correct when he says citizens won’t fully appreciate the act’s disastrous impacts until it is implemented.

DeMint, president of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, held a crowded rally in Tampa last week demanding Congress refuse to fund the law, even if that results in a government shutdown of nonessential services.

The stakes are high so such a forceful stance is understandable, but most Americans don’t like ultimatums, particularly ones that essentially hold the government hostage.

Supporters of this tactic, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, say Congress funding everything in the budget but Obamacare would shift the blame for a shutdown on the president.

We doubt many Americans would see it that way, particularly when activists seem most concerned with attacking Republicans who don’t agree with their dramatic strategy.

This all-or-nothing attitude ironically manages to make those who oppose a virtual federal takeover of the health-care system appear to be the radical ones. (It doesn’t help that the law’s opponents include some fringe, even hateful elements.)

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that people like certain provisions of the law, such as the guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, offering dependent coverage until age 26 and the requirement that insurance companies spend a majority of the premiums they collect on patient care, rather than on marketing or administration.

So opponents’ focus should be on making the case that there are superior alternatives to Obamacare or the status quo.

Little attention has been given to such Republican proposals as providing tax breaks for individual policies and making them portable, which would give workers, not their employers, control of their policies or increasing how much families can save tax free for medical expenses (which the president reduced).

If opponents offered solutions, rather than ultimatums, their arguments would likely be more persuasive to all Americans. It should be remembered that voters did re-elect the president last year.

There is even the remote chance that the administration, encountering all kinds of complications and delays in enacting the law, might be receptive to some face-saving compromises.

Opponents of the Affordable Health Care Act who concentrate on filleting would-be allies who only differ over tactics divert attention from the critical message: The Affordable Health Care Act poses a threat to the nation’s economy and individuals’ health-care options.

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