Andrew Sprung wrote a really interesting article, Why Do More People Say the ACA Has Harmed Than Helped Them? In addition to all the polling data from people saying that they don’t like Obamacare, there are also people who claim that they have been directly hurt by the new healthcare law — more than say that they have been helped. And that is, well, not factually true. Sprung tried to get to the bottom of why that is.
How exactly can someone be hurt by Obamacare? It’s a curious question, because if lots of people were hurt by the law, the Republicans would be parading them everywhere. Yet polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation currently finds that 22% of Americans think the law has hurt them and only 19% think it has helped them.
To some extent, this is predictable. Insurance rates generally go up each year. With the very effective propaganda campaign of the conservative movement, many people simply think that any changes in their healthcare are the fault of Obamacare. It is hard for people to see the fact that their premiums are rising more slowly than before as something that is helping them. But there are good signs. Last May, 24% of the people thought the law had hurt them and only 14% thought it had helped them.
What really seems to be going on is that companies all over the nation are using Obamacare to scare employees and to justify things they are doing for other reasons. I discussed a particular instance of this back in January, Worker Delusions and Corporate Profits. A local FedEx driver was complaining that Obamacare had more than doubled his health insurance costs. But the truth was that FedEx was just using “Obamacare” as a way to cut “the company’s fastest-growing expenses.”
There is a lot of complaining about how individuals and voters just aren’t very rational. That’s often true. But I don’t see how we can complain when businesses show the same irrationality. More reasonable businesses have applauded Obamacare as a way to reduce their expenses. For example, Trader Joe’s put their part-time employees in the public exchanges and gave them $500 per year. That increased the amount of money that the employees had and decreased expenses for the company. A win-win for everyone.
The companies like FedEx are in the middle ground where they take advantage of Obamacare where they can directly, but mostly just use it as an excuse to change worker contracts that hurt workers and help the company. And then there are the truly delusional companies who are just certain that Obamacare is destroying their profits — often even before the law went into effect.
Of course, fundamentally, the “Obamacare hurt me” meme is based on people just not liking and understanding the law because of the “nonstop disinformation and smear campaign conducted by the GOP these past six years.” For example, 40% of Republicans claimed the law had hurt them. There’s no way the law can have that kind of a partisan effect. I wouldn’t doubt that we would see similar numbers if Republicans were asked, “Did Obamacare kill a baby you know?”
A number of healthcare observers have noted that Obamacare will never be popular because it was designed to be invisible. Most people who benefit from Obamacare (for example, by getting cheap insurance on the exchanges) don’t see it as getting Obamacare). But it does seem that over time, people will stop thinking about Obamacare at all. And that is the way the law works. I think after Obama is out of office, things should improve more rapidly. But meanwhile, people will continue to blame the law for everything they don’t like about our admittedly screwed up healthcare system.