The New York Times has long excused the continuing unpopularity of Obamacare by arguing that people just don't understand it or that it's been unfairly caricatured by political opponents. The latest entry was John Harwood's "Political Memo" Tuesday, "The Next Big Challenge for Obama's Health Care Law: Carrying It Out." The text box fretted: "Misinformation and complex imperatives could cause trouble."
This month, a political organization aligned with House Republicans sent an e-mail to reporters attacking President Obama’s health care law.
“Young adults on parents’ plan pay more,” said the organization, the YG Network, citing a new employee benefits study. The e-mail’s subject line read “So Much for Popularity.”
Actually, the study did not show those young adults were paying more. It showed insurance companies were, because they had begun providing health coverage to those young adults, as called for under the law.
The missive, inaccurate though it was, illustrates the immense challenge facing the Obama administration as it puts in place the most significant parts of the 2010 law. Few government initiatives reach so many corners of the American economy and society -- and have as much potential to generate trouble for the party in the White House.
Harwood kept downplaying Obama-care related woes, even though Obama supporter and journalist Joe Klein found plenty to complain about in his April 2 column "Obamacare Incompetence," including those vaunted health-care exchanges: "...the key incentive for small businesses to support Obamacare was that they would be able to shop for the best deals in health care superstores -- called exchanges. The Administration has had three years to set up these exchanges. It has failed to do so."
Harwood even dismissed a Politico news report faulting Obama-care, while admitting to "modest potential headaches" for the economy. No mention of Obama-care architect and retiring Sen. Max Baucus calling the legislation's implementation a "train-wreck."
A new example popped up last week, to the delight of Republican opponents of the law. An article by Politico reported “high-level confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides” from the health law.
In fact, lawmakers said, the talks the article referred to concerned preserving the same kind of employer-subsidized health coverage for Congressional employees that workers at private companies can receive under the law. Yet the article sent White House aides and other Democrats scrambling to avoid the appearance of special treatment.
The law poses some modest potential headaches for the overall economy.
It requires, for example, that businesses with 50 or more full-time workers either offer insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Mr. Goolsbee said he would be watching whether companies around that threshold either defer hiring or shift some full-time workers to part-time jobs.
But the number of such companies is small. A vast majority of American workers are employed by larger companies that already offer coverage.