South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem keeps flogging away at the Affordable Care Act, along with legions of her Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives. Yesterday she was on Rapid City's KOTA-TV claiming that 2.6 million workers are "at risk of having their hours cut as a result of the Affordable Care Act." To head off this--in her own mind--catastrophic occurrence she is among many co-sponsoring the Saving American Workers Act. The Act would force employers to provide health coverage for workers putting in 40 or more hours a week instead of the 30 mandated by ACA. Noem told KOTA , "hopefully this will help any employees seeing their hours get cut to have those restored."
Apparently the feeling is that many employees who are now at or above the 30 hour/wk threshold will have their hours cut back to 29 or fewer so their bosses won't have to give them mandated coverage. I've been researching this and can so far find no data that supports that conclusion, though I have no doubt that anecdotal instances are out there, just like there is anecdotal evidence to support almost any claim. Though I have my doubts that this would occur on a widespread basis, I invite readers who have some data contradicting my doubts to send them here. What I don't get about this bill, though, is that it simply raises the hourly threshhold at which employees could be reduced in order to save employers from having to pick up their health insurance. If an employer would no longer be able to reduce from 30 to 29 the number of hours to escape ACA mandates, what's to stop him from reducing a 40-hour employee down to 39 in order to accomplish the same thing? Seems to me it just raises the bar even as it wipes out employer coverage for all those now in the 30 to 40 hour work bracket. I think this is a way to get even more workers taken out of the ACA pool.
Checking out the Congressional Budget Office's website, my hunch was confirmed. CBO's study concludes that the bill is a loser. It says that 1 million Americans would lose their work-provided health insurance, half of them being forced to find an ACA plan on their own, accept Medicaid or sign on to the Children's Health Insurance Program. The other half, according to CBO, wouldn't get any health insurance at all. The various provisions involving penalties and costs associated with the bill would drive up the federal deficit by $74 billion, per the CBO report. Some fix.
I think we can expect Noem and her fellow Republicans to turn up the hysteria volume on the Affordable Care Act in coming months. The trend is not their friend when it comes to the economy, which has been plugging along, what with the stock market at all time highs and the nearly 1 million jobs that have been created since ACA came into being. The job numbers are particularly notable considering they've been added during one of the most devastating and economy-dragging Winters in memory. I notice that the federal deficit relative to Gross Domestic Product (deficit to GDP ratio) is at 3% this year, compared to 9% in 2009. That's a huge drop, actually. Tax revenues are up significantly over the past few years, a sign of a strengthening economy. And as I noted yesterday, a Washington Post/ABC News poll just showed more Americans supporting ACA than opposing it for the first time.
As a Republican I'm chagrined over this, because so many powerful themes that my party can run on have been set aside, if not entirely ignored, due to this mass self-absorption with destroying ACA. Can I name a few? You bet. Dealing with student loans would be a great place to start, considering the effort would be directed at young people. Then there's immigration reform--remember that? And how about pushing back a little on the war on coal, which will cost many South Dakota utility rate payers money this year, maybe a couple of hundred bucks/yr per household. There are others, plenty of them. I'm sick of hearing about all the ACA-bashing, myself, and wish my party wouldn't be so focused on it as the midterms draw near.