An image from Marco Rubio's State of the Union rebuttal.
Marco Rubio’s rebuttal to the State of the Union address was remarkable for being unremarkable—it contained much of the same warmed-over pablum we heard from the stage in Tampa Bay at the Republican National Convention six months ago. President Obama “believes [the government] the cause of our problems” and that “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.” There was even a Solyndra reference.
But the most interesting and substantive part of Rubio’s speech was the attack he leveled against healthcare reform. The Affordable Care Act will be implemented over the next—wait, sorry. I’m incredibly thirsty. I need some water before I finish this post.
Okay, back. In any case, as the ACA is implemented over the next few years, Republicans must continue to launch rhetorical bombs at it, because a negative public perception of the law would create cover for Republican governors to deny Medicaid expansion in their state, and might also blunt “Obamacare” as a powerful Democratic talking point in 2014 and 2016.
So here’s what Rubio said about the ACA:
[M]any government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.
For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than fifty employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.
Rubio is explicitly trying to scare people into thinking they’re about to either lose their health insurance or get fired because of Obamacare. But none of this is true.
Let’s start with the first claim: that “some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with.” Rubio is eliding the fact that in the final telling, ACA is projected to insure 30 million Americans who otherwise don't have health insurance. It’s not immediately clear who Rubio thinks is losing their policies, because after all, insurance companies can no longer just drop people from coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Rubio goes on to say that “because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring” and others are switching from full-time to part-time workers because of the ACA. But that’s just not the case.
A study this summer from the Midwest Business Group on Health found that “there is little indication that employers plan to drop healthcare coverage.” The “expensive requirements” Rubio alludes to will be about 2.3 percent, according to one international consulting firm, and other studies show that healthcare reform might ultimately help small businesses because of the subsidies they receive and the fact they are offering a more attractive compensation package for employees. That’s what happened in Massachussets under Romneycare.
Sure, some right-wing business titans who run places like Applebee’s and Denny’s may say they’re going to cut back hours because of the dread of Obamacare, but they are the exceptions to the rule. Moreover, their actions are just one small part of a disturbing trend of large companies shifting healthcare costs onto low-wage workers—as would be any employer who cuts his full-time employees to part-time so he is not responsible for increased coverage requirements under the ACA.
And this gets to the real problem with Rubio’s speech. His case here is that Obamacare is hurting middle-class Americans—but then he specifically describes companies who would cut workers’ hours so they aren’t entitled to health insurance. It’s these vicissitudes of the free market that the ACA was trying to address, like when insurance companies drop people from coverage because they once took heartburn pills. Rubio’s larger case—his whole case in this speech—is that the government is hurtful, not harmful. But he was simply unable to prove it.
Check out Greg Mitchell's five-track toast to Marco Rubio's thirst.