Monday, December 02, 2013

Any problem with the health system will hereafter be called an "Obamacare problem"

One annoying thing about the ACA is anything bad related to health insurance is deemed to be an Obamacare problem even if it is a problem that long predated the health reform law.

For as long as I have been aware of this stuff, companies have cut employee hours to avoid giving them benefits. Just after I graduated high school, a friend of mine worked 29 hours per week at a book store. Why such an odd number? The company gave benefits to "full time employees" and defined people as full time if they worked 30 hours or more. This was in 1988. But when it happens today, it is all Obamacare's fault. Labor stats don't back up the notion that the ACA is causing any cutback in hours. But any company that cuts its hours has an incentive to say that it is doing the cuts because of Obamacare because then the law, and not the company, becomes the bad guy.

Likewise, business have been reducing the number of employees who get health insurance for decades. That phenomenon is what people were calling the "health care crisis" back in the early 1990s and the reason that Obama campaigned on health care reform as an issue which led to the ACA's passage. But whenever any employer drops health insurance after the ACA's passage, it must be Obamacare's fault.  And private insurance carriers have long been restricting the doctors and medical facilities you can visit (in-network vs. out-of-network), changes in policies, etc. This stuff was not invented by the 2010 law.

And, as Southern Beale points out, it's the same thing with identity theft. In the years before health reform passed, private insurance companies' security was often compromised. But when that stuff happened back then, it was viewed as a local problem of a particular insurance company. When this happened, the problem was Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee. But hey, I don't live in TN, so it didn't seem all that scary to me, even though I do have BC/BS. If that happened today, it would be reported as an instance of compromised security with "Obamacare", so now everyone can panic.

This is a serious political downside with the approach to health care reform that preserves core elements of the pre-reform system. Even though the health insurance industry has long been awful, the new law built upon what was already there. That included some of that system's problems. Now everything in it is now referred to as "Obamacare," even if the issue was not started by the new law.