New poll: Americans optimistic about Obamacare, overwhelmingly oppose GOP position

Source: The Jed Report, via Daily Kos

Author: staff

(N.B. The term ‘Obamacare’ is a conservative term for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) used by it’s GOP conservative critics.  As the ACA succeeds, will these critics still want their arch enemy’s name on it?  It might also be noted that as the law addresses health care insurance, not health care itself, ‘health care law’ may be a bad frame.)

CNN has a very interesting new poll that not only debunks the notion that Americans have already decided Obamacare is a failure, but also reveals that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the GOP’s conservative critique of the health care law.

According to the poll (pdf), which surveyed American adults between Nov. 18-20 with a margin of error of ±3.5 points:

  1. Most Americans believe Obamacare’s current problems will be solved. 54 percent say they believe current problems will be fixed, compared with 43 percent who say they won’t be.
  2. Most Americans believe it’s too early to judge whether Obamacare is a success or failure. A total of 53 percent think it is too early to say whether Obamacare is a success or failure. A total of 39 percent think it’s a failure and 8 percent already think it is a success.
  3. Most Americans do not support conservative critiques of Obamacare. According to the poll, 41 percent of Americans think Obamacare is too liberal, slightly more than 40 percent who support Obamacare. But 14 percent think it’s not liberal enough.

As you might expect, the poll’s crosstabs show that most Republicans are certain Obamacare can’t be fixed and has already failed, but outside of the GOP universe, people aren’t merely open to Obamacare, they are optimistic about its prospects and want it to work.

Obviously, it doesn’t matter how open or optimistic the public is if the Obama administration can’t ultimately deliver on the promise of Obamacare, but if they do, most Americans are on their side. Republicans have bet everything on failure. If they lose that bet, it will be an absolute political nightmare for them—and it should be.”

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO THE JED REPORT ON WED NOV 27, 2013 AT 09:41 AM PST.

ALSO REPUBLISHED BY DAILY KOS.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/27/1258749/-New-poll-Americans-optimistic-about-Obamacare-overwhelmingly-oppose-GOP-position

 

No, Obama Didn’t Lie to You About Your Health Care Plans

The claim that President Obama lied in saying that people could keep their insurance looks like another Fox News special.

Source: Alternet

Author: Dean Baker

President Obama has been getting a lot of grief in the last few weeks over his pledge that with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in place, people would be able to keep their insurance if they like it. The media have been filled with stories about people across the country who are having their insurance policies terminated, ostensibly because they did not meet the requirements of the ACA. While this has led many to say that Obama was lying, there is much less here than meets the eye.

First, it is important to note that the ACA grand-fathered all the individual policies that were in place at the time the law was enacted. This means that the plans in effect at the time that President Obama was pushing the bill could still be offered even if they did not meet all the standards laid out in the ACA.

The plans being terminated because they don’t meet the minimal standards were all plans that insurers introduced after the passage of the ACA. Insurers introduced these plans knowing that they would not meet the standards that would come into effect in 2014. Insurers may not have informed their clients at the time they sold these plans that they would not be available after 2014 because they had designed a plan that did not comply with the ACA.

However if the insurers didn’t tell their clients that the new plans would only be available for a short period of time, the blame would seem to rest with the insurance companies, not the ACA. After all, President Obama did not promise people that he would keep insurers from developing new plans that will not comply with the provisions of the ACA.

In addition to the new plans that were created that did not comply with the terms of the ACA, there have been complaints that the grandfathering was too strict. For example, insurers can only raise their premiums or deductibles by a small amount above the rate of medical inflation. As a result, many of the plans in existence at the time of the ACA are losing their grandfathered status.

In this case also it is wrong to view the insurers as passive actors who are being forced to stop offering plans because of the ACA. The price increases charged by insurers are not events outside of the control of insurers. If an insurer offers a plan which has many committed buyers, then presumably it would be able to structure its changes in ways that are consistent with the ACA. If it decides not to do so, this is presumably because the insurer has decided that it is not interested in continuing to offer the plan.

As a practical matter, there are many plans that insurers will opt to drop for market reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the ACA. It’s hard to see how this could be viewed as a violation of President Obama’s pledge. After all, insurers change and drop plans all the time. Did people who heard Obama’s pledge understand it to mean that insurers would no longer have this option once the ACA passed?

If Obama’s pledge was understood as ensuring that every plan that was in existence in 2010 would remain in existence, then it would imply a complete federal takeover of the insurance industry. This would require the government to tell insurers that they must continue to offer plans even if they are losing money on them and even if the plans had lost most of their customers. This would at the least be a strange policy. It would be surprising if many people thought this was the meaning of President Obama’s pledge.

Finally, there will be many plans that insurers will stop offering in large part because of the changed market conditions created by the ACA. For example, last week the Washington Post highlighted a plan for the “hardest to insure” that was being cancelled by Pathmark Blue Cross of Pennsylvania.

This plan is likely being cancelled because it is unable to compete with the insurance being offered through the exchanges. The exchanges charge everyone the same rate regardless of their pre-existing health conditions. A plan that is especially designed for people who have serious health conditions would almost certainly charge a far higher rate. If these high-priced plans no longer exist because they cannot compete with the exchanges would this mean that President Obama had broken his pledge?

On closer inspection, the claim that President Obama lied in saying that people could keep their insurance looks like another Fox News special. In the only way that the pledge could be interpreted as being meaningful, the pledge is true. The ACA does not eliminate plans that were in existence at the time the bill was approved.

If we want to play Fox News, President Obama also promised people they could keep their doctor. Since 2010 tens of thousands of doctors have retired or even died. Guess the pledge that people could keep their doctor was yet another lie from the Obama administration.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/no-obama-didnt-lie-you-about-your-health-care-plans

 

6 Most Brazen Right-Wing Lies About Obamacare

The campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch.

Source: AlterNet

(N.B.: The greatest fear that the detractors of the ACA have is that it will succeed!)

Author: Mark Howard

“Halloween is approaching and the hobgoblins of conservative media are already spinning nightmarish tales of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Actually, they have been doing it for quite some time, dating back to at least March 2010 when Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller published an article headlined “IRS looking to hire thousands of armed tax agents to enforce healthcare laws.” Fox News reposted the article on its community web site and Fib Factory, Fox Nation despite the fact that it was a complete fabrication and was debunked by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org

This year the campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch. The Republican Party and conservative media has pulled out all the stops in a strategy aimed at scaring people from signing up with the hope that low enrollment will collapse the system. President Obama had the same concerns last month when he said…

“What you’ve had is an unprecedented effort that you’ve seen ramp up in the past month or so that those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place — and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts — trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.”

These are not the hackneyed GOP talking points about death panels, job killers and government bureaucrats coming between patients and doctors. These are far more fanciful efforts that stretch the limits of credulity and appear to have more in common with satire than actual news reporting. But this is what it has come to as Obamacare has finally reached the consumer stage and conservatives are desperate to keep people from discovering its benefits.

1Fox News Warns That If You Sign Up For ObamaCare Hackers Will Steal Your Life Savings
On an episode of “The Real Story” on Fox News, host Gretchen Carlson introduced an ominous new strain of fear-mongering to demonize Obamacare. She interviewed John McAfee, the anti-virus software developer who is presently a fugitive from a murder investigation in Belize. He made a wild accusation that visitors to Healthcare.gov are going to be victimized by hackers who will steal their identities and/or drain their bank accounts.

Neither Carlson nor McAfee actually provided any evidence of such a threat. In fact, when directly asked about it, McAfee diverts from the question and lays out a completely different threat that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Obamacare website. He alleges that nefarious individuals could set up their own unaffiliated websites in the hopes of luring naive people to take advantage of. Of course, that is a threat that exists for every website, and has since the Internet began. Visiting Healthcare.gov does not expose anyone to these phony sites as implied by the fear-mongers at Fox.

2) WorldNetDaily Reports “Obama ‘Crashing Health-Care Site On Purpose’”
This article asserts that the President is so afraid that insurance shoppers will learn that Obamacare is really more expensive than the old system that he deliberately caused the website to crash to keep people from seeing the rates. No one is defending the botched launch of the insurance exchanges. However, the notion that the technical glitches were intentionally caused by Obama is delusional.

WND’s argument (supported by links to Rush Limbaugh) that rates will increase leaves out the subsidies and tax credits that are available for many applicants. With these adjustments, premiums for most people will be substantially lower. The administration would, therefore, be anxious for consumers to have access to that information and would not be putting obstacles in their path.

3) Rand Paul: Take Obamacare Or Go To Jail
Tea Party darling Rand Paul has made innumerable false statements about virtually every policy that has emanated from the White House. But none are more surreal than his comment, “They say take [Obamacare] or we will put people in jail. People say we aren’t going to put anybody in jail. The heck they won’t. You will get fined first. If you don’t pay your fines, you will go to jail.”

That’s interesting coming from someone who has frequently complained that no one in Congress has read the Affordable Care Act. If he had read it himself he would have known that the law explicitly prohibits criminal consequences for non-payment of fines. It states “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.” It rarely gets more clear than that, but the mission to frighten the public exceeds the motivation for truth on the part of GOP scare-meisters.

4) Right-Wing Think Tank Mortified That Obamacare Website Links To Voter Registration Form
This is a particularly curious horror story as it seeks to raise an alarm over something that ought to be regarded as a civic duty. Nevertheless, the conservative MacIver Institute (a Koch brothers-funded operation) published an article that implied there was some sort of heinous objective on the part of the Obama administration for having included a link to a voter registration form on the Obamacare website. This startling revelation is met with foreboding by MacIver and a flurry of right-wing media outlets that disseminated MacIver’s story, including National Review, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and Fox News. All of their reports agreed that this was a clandestine attempt to register only Democratic voters despite the absence of any partisan framing. MacIver even asks specifically “[W]hat does registering to vote have to do with signing up for Obamacare?”

The core of the right’s trepidation is rooted in a more fundamental aversion to the act of voting itself. It is why they are continually erecting new barriers to voting. Democrats, on the other hand, have sought to expand voter turnout with bills like the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (aka Motor Voter) that mandates certain government agencies provide people with access to voter registration. In fact, that 20-year-old law requires that Obamacare administrators make voter registration available. MacIver, and similarly mortified conservative comrades, are either unaware of this, or are deliberately feigning ignorance in order to rile up their conspiracy-prone base.

5) Weekly Standard Finds Imaginary Threat On Obamacare Website
The ultra-conservative Weekly Standard dispatched its crack reporters to ferret out what it portrayed as an ominous security threat on the Healthcare.gov website. What it found were comments in the site’s source code that said that “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.” The Standard notes that these comments were not visible to users and were not part of the site’s terms and conditions. But that didn’t stop them from implying that users would be still be bound by it because “the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code.” Not really. It’s only a part of some inoperative text that carries no more obligation than some discarded notes.

This is another situation where you have to wonder whether these people are embarrassingly stupid or brazenly dishonest. There is a reason this language was not visible. It was deliberately removed with the use of HTML comment tags by the site’s programmers. It was undoubtedly edited out because it was not an accurate expression of the site’s privacy policy. It does not mean that users are agreeing to a secret clause permitting the government to spy on them as the Standard implied. If any of these “reporters” had a 14-year-old at home they could have learned what this is about. But that would have interfered with their goal, which is to leave Americans with the false impression that some hidden danger lurks beneath the surface of Obamacare.

6) Fox News Fears ACORN Is Back To Push ObamaCare
The Curvy Couch Potatoes over at Fox & Friends had a jolly old time resurrecting their fear of a community organizing enterprise that no longer exists. ACORN was wrongly hounded out of business by right-wing opponents after pseudo-journalist and convicted criminal James O’Keefe distributed some deceitfully edited and libelous videos. But that hasn’t stopped conservative media from exhuming the corpse whenever they are in need of a sensationalist story, as demonstrated by Fox co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who announced that “We’re getting information that ACORN operatives are trying to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act.”

While ACORN was never found to have engaged in any unlawful activity, there was a bill passed that prohibited them from receiving federal funds. However, there is nothing in the law that prevents organizations with former ACORN staff from getting federal grants. In fact, there isn’t even any current law that prevents ACORN from getting grants as the previous ban was not included in the latest Continuing Resolution. Fox is brazenly misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to reignite fears of the old ACORN bogeyman. They upped the terror ante by further alleging that ACORN would use your personal medical and financial information against you politically. They never revealed how that would occur, or to what end, but that isn’t the point. Their only interest is spreading fear, no matter how irrational and unsupported.

Conclusion

The zealousness with which these right-wing propagandists pursue their disinformation campaign is evidence of their own fear that Americans will come to appreciate having access to affordable healthcare. Therefore, they see their mission as derailing the program before that eventuality unfolds. Their tactics get more extreme and absurd the closer the program gets to gaining acceptance. A particular target of their attack is young people whose participation is important for the program to succeed. Consequently, opponents have launched a well-funded campaign (thanks to the Koch brothers) to scare off young consumers. Generation Opportunity has already released the now notorious “Creepy Uncle Sam” videos that make false implications of government intrusion into medical care. Next they are embarking on a 20-city college tour to mislead students.”

PolitiFact has reviewed 16 claims made by Obamacare detractors and found all of them false. Twelve of those were designated “Pants On Fire” lies. If there is one question that begs to be asked, it is this: If Obamacare is so terrible, why do opponents have to tell so many lies about it?

Mark Howard is an artist and the founder of the media analysis website News Corpse. He is the author of Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth.”

Emphasis Mine

See:http://www.alternet.org/media/6-most-brazen-right-wing-lies-about-obamacare?akid=11074.123424.m5-LEx&rd=1&src=newsletter914168&t=5

Americans Must Be Able to Obtain Health Care Coverage As Is Their Right Under the Law

Source: HuffPost

Author: Steven Fulop

“In the 1930’s, Democrats created Social Security over the vocal opposition of Republicans. Today the program is an enduring legacy. It is recognized as the politically untouchable third rail of politics that provides for millions of Americans. In the 1960’s, Democrats created Medicare over the vocal opposition of Republicans. Today, it’s wildly popular among both older Americans and the medical community that treats them. See a pattern? It is likely to continue.

Democrats created the Affordable Care Act. Republican opposition has made the fights about Social Security and Medicare look like a walk in the park. While it’s far too soon to say this program will prove as popular as the others, what is almost criminal is how opponents of the law are essentially denying Americans their now constitutionally guaranteed rights.

In their contempt for the law, too many state governments have made it next to impossible for their citizens to obtain coverage while at the same time almost ridiculing those who want to sign up. On Saturday at a rally in New Jersey, according to The New York Times, Sarah Palin rejected the notion that people should accept the Affordable Care Act though it was passed by Congress, signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court. Of course, Palin undoubtedly has fine health care coverage for herself yet she chooses to, in essence, criticize those who want to do the same for themselves and their families.

This is a tragedy. Opponents of the law are now so reckless in their hatred that they have shut down the government and threaten the stability and reputation of America not just at home but internationally as well.

While this is going on, ordinary people simply want to ensure they have affordable health coverage that previously they were unable to obtain. So while the opponents scream, let’s take a look on the local level at the practical impact of the law in its first few weeks of implementation. In my city, about 55,000 residents — nearly 20 percent of the Jersey City population — currently have no health insurance. With the launch of the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, we had the responsibility to inform residents of their options are and how to apply. That is why the City developed a robust and proactive plan to assist residents in answering their questions and applying online.

The City partnered on a federally-funded mobile Navigator Program through a $400,000 grant that hired four bilingual counselors to visit businesses, community groups, and local non-profits to enroll residents. Only six federal grants were allocated in New Jersey, and Jersey City is the only municipality with a bilingual, mobile model. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has 10 certified application counselors, many of whom are bilingual, to help residents understand their health coverage options and enroll them.

If it is possible to see the demand and need in a mid-size American city, imagine the broader results if each community in the United States undertook to ensure its citizens were aggressively advised of their rights under the law.

With history as a guide, not only will Americans be healthier because of their new right, so will the economy despite the outrageous claims made by opponents. Social Security and Medicare have benefitted not just older Americans but the economy at large as well. It is likely over the next few years and then for generations to come the Affordable Care Act will achieve similar results.

Steve Fulop is the Mayor of Jersey City, NJ.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-fulop/affordable-care-act-coverage_b_4096820.html

 

The Tea Party Republicans’ Biggest Mistake

Source: Robert Reich’s Blog, via RSN

Author: By Robert Reich

Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama and a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, has just changed his tune. He now says: “My primary focus is on minimizing risk of insolvency and bankruptcy. There are many paths you can take to get there. Socialized medicine is just one of the component parts of our debt and deficits that put us at financial risk.”

Translated: House Republicans are under intense pressure. A new Gallup poll shows the Republican Party now viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. That’s the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992. The Democratic Party is viewed favorably by 43%, down four percentage points from last month.

So Republicans are desperately looking for a way of getting out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves – and the President has given them one. He told them that if they agree to temporarily fund the government and raise the debt ceiling without holding as ransom the Affordable Care Act or anything else, negotiations can begin on reducing the overall budget deficit.

What’s the lesson here? The radicals who tried to hijack America didn’t understand one very basic thing. While most Americans don’t like big government, Americans revere our system of government. That’s why even though a majority disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, a majority also disapprove of Republican tactics for repealing or delaying it.

Government itself has never been popular in America except during palpable crises such as war or deep depression. The nation was founded in a revolution against an abusive government – that was what the original Tea Party was all about – and that distrust is in our genes. The Constitution reflects it. Which is why it’s hard for government to do anything very easily. (I’ve never been as frustrated as when I was secretary of labor – continuously running into the realities of separation of power, checks and balances, and the endless complications of federal, state, and local levels of authority. But frustration goes with the job.)

No one likes big government. If you’re on the left, you worry about the military-industrial-congressional complex that’s spending zillions of dollars creating new weapons of mass destruction, spying on Americans, and killing innocents abroad. And you don’t like government interfering in your sex life, telling you how and when you can have an abortion, whom you can marry. If you’re on the right, you worry about taxes and regulations stifling innovation, out-of-control bureaucrats infringing on your freedom, and government deficits as far as the eye can see.

So when Tea Party Republicans, bankrolled by a handful of billionaires, began calling the Affordable Care Act a “wholesale takeover of American health care,” many Americans were inclined to believe them. Health care is such a huge and complicated system, affecting us and our families so intimately, that our inherent distrust of government makes us instinctively wary. It’s no accident we’re still the only advanced nation not to have universal health care. FDR decided against adding it to his plan for Social Security because he didn’t want to jeopardize the rest of the program; subsequent presidents never got close, at least until Obama.

The best argument for the Affordable Care Act is that our current healthcare system is so dysfunctional – the most expensive in the world with the least healthy outcomes (highest infant mortality, shortest life spans, worst rates of chronic disease) of any advanced nation – that we had no choice but to try to fix it. Even so, it’s a typical American fix: It’s still based on private health providers and private insurers. All government does is subsidize the poor, require insurers to take in people with pre-existing health problems, and pay for it by requiring everyone to be insured.

The Tea Party Republicans’ mistake was to assume that Americans’ distrust of big government, and, by extension, the Affordable Care Act, would allow them to ride roughshod over the process we have for making laws.

Their double-barreled threat to shut down the government and cause the United States to default on its obligations if the Affordable Care Act isn’t repealed or at least delayed is a direct assault on our system of government: If even unpopular laws can be gutted by a majority in one house of Congress holding the rest of government hostage, there’s no end to it. No law on the books will be safe. (Their retort that Congress holds the “purse strings” and can therefore decide to de-fund what it dislikes is bunk; appropriation bills have to be agreed to by both houses and signed into law by the president, like any other legislation.)

While most of us distrust government, we’re indelibly proud of our system of government. We like to think it’s just about the best system in the world. We don’t much like politicians but we canonize the Founding Fathers, the Framers of the Constitution. And we revere the fading parchment on which the Constitution is written. When we pledge allegiance to the United States we bind ourselves to that system of government. Anyone who seeks to overthrow or undermine that system is deemed a traitor.

And that’s exactly what some Tea Partiers have begun sounding like – traitors to the system, radicals for whom the end they seek justifies whatever means they think necessary to achieve it. As such, they began losing support even among Americans who had bought their view of the Affordable Care Act.

So they’ve had to back down, and soon, hopefully, we can move to the next stage – negotiating over the size of government. That should be stronger ground for the Tea Partiers. But the President, Democrats, and any moderate Republican who dares show his face can still gain ground by framing the question properly: The size of government isn’t the real issue. It’s who government is for. The best way to reduce future budget deficits is to ensure it’s for all of us and not just a privileged few.

That means revenues should be raised from the wealthy, who have never been wealthier – limiting their deductions and tax credits, closing loopholes like “carried interest,” and taxing financial transactions. Spending should be cut by ending corporate welfare – terminating tax subsidies to oil and gas, ballooning payments to agribusiness, sweetheart deals for military contractors, and the “too big to fail” subsidy for Wall Street’s biggest banks. Future health-care costs should be contained by using the government’s bargaining leverage over providers (through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act) to force a shift from fee-for-service to payments-for-healthy-outcomes. And we should spend more on high-quality education and infrastructure for everyone.

Americans distrust big government, and always will. There’s ample reason – especially given the huge sums now bankrolling politicians, coming from a relative handful of billionaires, big corporations, and Wall Street. But we love our system of government. That’s what must be strengthened.

By using tactics perceived to violate that system, the Tea Partiers have overplayed their hand. If they don’t stop their recklessness, they’ll be out of the game.


Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/19833-focus-the-tea-party-republicans-biggest-mistake

 

Obamacare’s real danger for the GOP is that it will succeed

Source: Washington Post

Author: Eugene Robinson

” To understand the crisis in Washington, tune out the histrionics and look at the big picture: Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government — and perhaps even refuse to let the Treasury pay its creditors — in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to keep millions of Americans from getting health insurance.

Seriously. That’s what all the yelling and screaming is about. As my grandmother used to say, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

The GOP has tried its best to make Obamacare a synonym for bogeyman and convince people that it’s coming in the night to snatch the children. In fact, and I know this comes as a shock to some, Obamacare is not a mythical creature. It is a law, incorporating what were originally Republican ideas, that will make it possible for up to 30 million people now lacking health insurance to obtain it.Officially, the law in question is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Republicans intended the term “Obamacare” to be mocking, which is perhaps why President Obama started using it with pride.It is, indeed, an achievement of which the nation can be proud. About 48 million individuals in this country lacked health insurance in 2012, according to the Census Bureau, representing about 15 percent of the population. Other industrialized nations provide universal health care — and wonder if this is what we mean when we talk about American exceptionalism.

About 25 percent of people in households with annual incomes below $25,000 are uninsured, compared with just 8 percent in households earning more than $75,000. Do the working poor not deserve to have their chronic medical conditions treated as punishment for not making enough money?

Other rich countries provide truly universal care through single-payer systems of various kinds. Obama chose instead to model the Affordable Care Act after a program implemented on the state level by the Republican governor who became Obama’s opponent in the 2012 presidential election. Yes, before Obamacare there was Romneycare, a private-sector, free-market solution designed to be in accord with the GOP’s most hallowed principles.

But in the years between Mitt Romney’s tenure in Massachusetts and his presidential run, the Republican Party lost its way, or perhaps its mind.

The party shows no serious interest in finding a GOP-friendly way to provide the uninsured with access to health care. Rather, it pursues two goals at any cost: opposing Obama no matter what he does, and making people see Obamacare as a failure.

For the radical far right, making health care more widely available through the existing network of insurers, most of them for-profit companies, is a giant leap toward godless socialism. These extremists hold outsize power in the GOP — enough to make sane Republican officials fear, with some reason, that anything short of massive resistance to Obamacare could lead to a primary challenge and a shortened career.

Some of Obamacare’s provisions are already in force and seem to be having the intended effect. For example, young adults are now allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurancepolicies until age 26. In 2009, 29.8 percent of those 19 through 25 were uninsured; in 2012, 27.2 percent lacked insurance, a modest but significant decline.

Now the central provisions of the Affordable Care Act are set to come into effect — the individual mandate, the insurance exchanges, the guarantee of coverage for those with preexisting conditions. Republicans scream that Obamacare is sure to fail. But what they really fear is that it will succeed.

That’s the reason for all the desperation. Republicans are afraid that Obamacare will not prove to be a bureaucratic nightmare — that Americans, in fact, will find they actually like it. The GOP fears that Obamacare will even be credited with slowing the rise of health-care costs to a more manageable rate. There are signs, in fact, that this “bending of the curve” is already taking place: Medical costs are still rising much faster than inflation but at the slowest rate in decades.

Keeping premiums under control will require persuading lots of young, healthy people to buy insurance — and thus, in effect, subsidize those who are older and sicker. That is why a group called Generation Opportunity, funded by the ultraconservative Koch brothers, plans to tour college campuses with disgusting ads in which a creepy Uncle Sam subjects a young woman to a pelvic examination.

The GOP message: Whatever you do, don’t buy health insurance. It may be — shudder — good for you.”

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-obamacare-the-gop-nightmare/2013/09/23/fd29187a-246a-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions

Ranks of part-time workers still high. Obamacare not to blame, experts say

Source: http://www.cleveland.com

Author: Oliveria Perkins

“Megan Conway’s part-time waitressing job was great for extra money when she was a college student, but now with a degree and $40,000 in student loans, she thought she would have a full-time, professional job by now.

Conway is considered an involuntary part-time worker, or someone who really wants full-time work.

Recessions often give rise to more involuntary part-timers as employers cut back workers’ hours and on hiring of  full-timers. But during recoveries, the ranks of such workers usually drop. However, during this recovery, their numbers have remained stubbornly high, though the unemployment rate has dropped.

“It has definitely made me a little angry,” Conway said of being unable to land a full-time professional job. “I feel that I did everything right. I networked. I even took an unpaid internship to get experience. I am a hard worker.”

At least two issues have pushed the plight of part-timers into the foreground. One is the discussion about whether the  Affordable Care Act, or ACA, also know as Obamacare, is leading to more part-time workers. The act requires employers  to provide health care to many employees averaging at least 30 hours a week. Critics of ACA say employers are only hiring part-timers as well as reducing the hours of an increasing number already on their payrolls  to avoid providing medical insurance.

The second issue has to do with the proliferation of part-time jobs. Three out of four jobs created between December 2012 and July 2013 were part time, according to the federal Current Population Survey. The Labor Department defines part-time as working fewer than 35 hours per week. Some of these part-timers, like Conway, are recent college graduates who have had to resort to working menial jobs. She has been looking to work in the nonprofit sector since graduating in 2009 with a degree in that field. However, Conway is happy to have her job at a chain restaurant. Since she has been there several years, Conway makes more than minimum wage, and she has benefits.

Even more of these involuntary part-timers are those who once held full-time jobs, said Rebecca Glauber, a University of New Hampshire professor who recently published a paper on the topic.

“A lot of people lost their jobs during the recession, and if they were finding jobs, they were only finding part-time jobs,” she said.

Glauber found that the involuntary part-time employment rate more than doubled between 2007 and 2012. For women, it rose from 3.6 percent to 7.8 percent. For men, it went from 2.4 to 5.9 percent.

She found it was the largest five-year increase in involuntary part-time employment since the 1970s.

The share of the employed working part time was about 17 percent in 2007, said Rob Valletta, research advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who just co-authored an Economic Letter about the increase in part-time work. By 2009, that figure had increased to nearly 20 percent, and has remained at that level. The recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

While the share has remained constant, the demographics of these workers have changed. Valletta said they — like Conway — are now more apt to be the “prime” working age group of 25-to-54-year-olds. In the past, part-timers were more likely to come from the smaller pool of 16-to-24-year-olds.

“Many in the pool of prime workers, perhaps are very experienced and can only find part-time work,” he said. “Many have families to support, creating a source of hardship. One can argue that this shift can be obscured because the overall amount of part-time work occurring in the economy has been stable.”

Frederick “Rick” King worked about a decade at the family-owned chain of local music stores where he sold software and keyboards until the business closed about five years ago. He now works part-time at a chain drug store, a position he has held about a year.

“Most of the jobs being generated in this economy aren’t for adults like me with a decent work history,” King said. “I’m almost 50 years old, I don’t want to wait tables. That is for someone in high school or college who can survive on a part-time job.”

Most of the jobs created during the economy have either been higher paying ones, like nursing or other professions requiring specialized degrees or training, or they have been lower-paying jobs, like many in food service and retail that often are part-time.

“There has been a hollowing out of the middle,” Glauber said. “Involuntary part-time employment appears to be strongly correlated with economic vulnerability and hardship.”

Glauber found that in 2012, one in four of these workers lived in poverty; while only one in 20 of full-time workers did.

King said he doesn’t make enough to support his family. They are only making it because his check is combined with that of his 23-year-old son, also a part-time worker and a disability check a younger son receives. He said a disability keeps his wife from working.

King’s hopes rose recently when he applied for a full-time position at his company. The job went to someone else.
Structural or short-term changes?

More than 8.2 million people were considered involuntary part-time workers in July, virtually unchanged from a year earlier, according to the Labor Department. Nearly 2.6 million wanted full-time work, but couldn’t find it. The remaining became part-timers after employers cut back their hours.

The combined trends of the ranks of part-time workers not dwindling, 75 percent of the newly created jobs being part-time and the economy creating relatively few mid-level jobs, have caused many to question whether structural changes are occurring to the labor market. Will part-time work supplant a substantial number of full-time jobs?
“There may be a structural component to elevated part-time employment, but it is still too soon to tell,” Valletta said.
He believes lasting changes are unlikely. Valletta said such high rates of part-time workers have occurred before. In 1983, the share of people working part-time was slightly higher than the most recent peak, which fell back then as the economy improved.

“No one would argue that the labor market is anywhere recovered,” he said of the current recovery. “The elevated level of part-time work is just a reflection of this, and will likely get reversed over the next few years.”

Valletta said part-time employment had dropped among some demographic groups, including married women between 25 and 54, with more than a high school diploma. Less educated workers haven’t seen the same decreases.

Glauber also believes an improved economy is essential to lowering involuntary part-time work. But she said that will only happen for many of these workers if the recovery revs up instead of just creeps along as it has been doing.

The case of adjunct faculty may offer a point to ponder about the proliferation of part-time employment. Long before the recession, colleges and universities began hiring adjuncts in lieu of creating tenure track positions. On many campuses they make up a substantial portion of the teaching staff.

David Wilder, an adjunct art history and art professor, is a committee co-chair in the Ohio Part-time Faculty Association, an advocacy group. Since the recession, college enrollment has increased, but he said that hasn’t led to more permanent opportunities for these part-timers. He said reversing the trend of colleges favoring the creation of more part-time positions, has been difficult to reverse. Having even a chance at tenure has become an elusive goal for these instructors.

“It is said that the longer you spend teaching as an adjunct, the less chances you have of full-time employment,” Wilder said.

“A perverse moral system seems to have been fostered that views with suspicion those who’ve gone a long time without being hired on a full-time basis,” he said. “This is despite the fact that a few decades ago, faculty acquiring tenure was fairly common.”

Obamacare appears to be a factor in adjuncts at some institutions getting fewer hours. In April, the University of Akron decided to limit part-time instructors to eight credit hours per semester to avoid increasing health care costs. Officials said about 400 part-time faculty were typically teaching more than eight credit hours, and providing health care to them would be nearly $4 million.

Is Obamacare leading to more part-timers?

Several experts say what happened at the University of Akron doesn’t appear to be the norm.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., analyzed the number of hours people worked for the first half of this year  to determine if employers were cutting workers back to under 30 hours to avoid paying health care.

He and Helene Jorgensen found that the percentage of workers putting in 25 to 29 hours was up, but so were those putting in 30 or more hours. The only drop was in those working 20 hours or fewer.

“There is some rise in the share of workers working 25 to 29 hours,” Baker said. “The reason is not that they are being cut from longer hours. The reason is there is a gain in the 25 to 29 category at the expense of workers working shorter hours.”

Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., said it is premature for employers to make decisions now about cutting workers’ hours to avoid penalties, since implementation of that provision of the ACA has been put off until 2015.

“There is a lot of complexity to this law, and there is a lot of misinformation,” she said. “A lot of employers don’t understand what is going on.”

Employers who don’t provide health care for employees working an average of 30 hours per week or more could be subject to a $2,000 fine, but only if certain conditions are met.

For example, the law only applies to employers with at least 50 employees. Companies that don’t now offer coverage to these 30-hour-plus workers are the only ones that might be affected. Blumberg said the “vast majority” of larger companies now offer coverage to at least some of their workers, and many already offer  coverage to many part-timers. For the most part, a company would only incur penalties for not providing coverage to employees between 138 and 400 percent of poverty. And only if at least one of the employees in that income group gets subsidized coverage through the new insurance marketplaces, or exchanges.

Blumberg said the many media reports and blog posts that have focused on Obamacare leading to more part-time work miss a key issue about running a business.

Tiffani Lanier went to Millennia Cos. in Independence believing  that she had only signed on for a temporary assignment helping to reorganize files. Still, she was conscientious.

Cheryl Wszeborowski, the human resources and payroll director at the housing management company, took notice.

“We are a growing company, creating new positions frequently,” she said. “So when I find someone who has a great attitude and who is willing to learn, I will work hard to find a full-time position in our company for them.”

Lanier was permanently hired as an accounting clerk. She wanted full-time work when she took the temporary assignment. Lanier said she is glad she didn’t turn it down.

“Even if it is a part-time or temporary position, there is nothing wrong with trying it,” she said. “If I hadn’t accepted it, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Valletta of the San Francisco Fed said high numbers in the part-time pool often point to a skills mismatch between job seekers and available openings.

King, the drug store part-timer, said that after being laid off from the music store he got an Associates degree in graphic arts, but hasn’t been able to get a job in the field because of limited openings. He still holds out hope that he will.

Conway, the part-time waitress, said she still has a passion for nonprofit management. However, after dozens  of interviews and no job, it was time to reconsider her career choice. Conway remembers being upbeat when she got an interview for a part-time volunteer coordinator’s position. She was told 400 people had applied.

She didn’t get the job.

“It was kind of getting ridiculous,” she said of the several jobs for which she was a finalist. “I kept being told: ‘You’re a great candidate,’ but I wasn’t getting hired.”

Conway is now studying to become a registered nurse.
“I know only two people my age who have like amazing jobs — and they are in health care,” she said. “Everybody else is struggling.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2013/09/ranks_of_part-time_workers_sti.html