Thursday, July 12, 2012
Health Care Law Has Been Painless


How's this for crying Wolf?

State Sen. Dan Wolf testified earlier this week in the nation's capital before the House Committee on Oversight and Government, implicitly reminding lawmakers of something economist Brad DeLong has been emphasizing:

Obamacare is Romneycare!

Over and against the talking points of the repealers, Wolf testified about his business actually expanding alongside Romneycare.

The Harwich Democrat recalled how 25 years ago, as a trained mechanic and pilot, his dream was to start an airline in Massachusetts.

In 1989, Cape Air started with one plane, one route and six employees. Today, the company is still headquartered in Massachusetts, although it operates in 11 states, four U.S. territories and commonwealths, and three foreign countries. This year, the airline will carry 725,000 passengers and generate $105 million in revenue, he said, noting that Cape Air provides nearly 1,000 full-time jobs — 500 of which are in Massachusetts.

His primary goal in getting elected two years ago, Wolf said, was "to help government and private businesses partner in ways that make our communities healthier and our economy stronger, and what's informing my perspective includes six years on the Federal Reserve Board's Advisory Council for New England, board chair of one of the largest chambers of commerce in Massachusetts and a trustee of the largest mutual bank in the Cape and Islands region."

I'm glad he touted his business credentials, if only to lay bare the joke of political rhetoric that says "government is the problem," even as so many of Saint Reagan's followers have held government jobs — and insurance — for most of their working careers.

"From all these vantage points," Wolf went on to testify, "I've come to realize that one of the most important values we must embrace is that every American should have access to affordable, excellent health care. We have come a long way toward accomplishing that goal in Massachusetts, and we have done so without stunting business growth and without cutting jobs."

Now, lest folk think Wolf is overlooking the imperfections of Romneycare, he did note that "Massachusetts health care reform was designed to ensure access, not curtail cost."

And that's why, he added, the Bay State "is on the verge of implementing new strategies to contain costs," referring to what industry insiders call "Accountable Care Organizations," which, to oversimplify, seeks to pay doctors based on health outcomes along a continuum-of-care, as opposed to the current fee-for-service regime.

That happens to be what the Obama administration is calling for — something akin to the conservative obsession with "merit pay" for teachers in the name of "accountability."

(Funny how some insist on the "common sense" approach of linking teacher salaries' to results in the classroom, while never calling for the same in doctor's offices and hospitals. God forbid we hold the medical profession to the same bar of "accountability" as we do teachers).

Also, unlike the vague generalities and outright distortions we hear from the repealers, who supposedly care about jobs above all else, Wolf actually provided some details about how Romneycare impacted Cape Air.

"From Cape Air's first day in business, we offered health care coverage, knowing that affordable health care coverage helps us retain a great workforce. This year, Cape Air's health insurance premiums will total close to $3 million, roughly 3 percent of the company's gross income. The company will pay just over half of that cost, employees the rest," he testified.

Wolf recalled that when Romneycare went into effect, "there were dire predictions of the impact on businesses like Cape Air."

But, he said, "Here's what really happened: We added some new dependents under 26 years of age to family plans. Beyond that, the transition was seamless. There was no bureaucracy or heavy lifting in the front office."

Since then, Cape Air has added 15 percent more Massachusetts-based jobs, amid growing revenue.

"Health care reform has not stifled business," Wolf reiterated.

And, contrary to repealer rhetoric, Wolf also pointed out that here — in what those brilliant analysts on talk radio call the "anti-business climate" of "Taxachusetts" — unemployment has dropped from 8 percent in 2009 to 5.8 percent in May of this year. That's 2.4 percent below the national average.

Massachusetts also ranks eighth in the nation in job creation this year, adding 37,800 new jobs through May, he noted.

Oh, and since January 2007, Massachusetts ranks third in the nation in economic performance in terms of gross state product.

Remember when the tea party turned Congress into a radical right fraternity during the last election cycle? Every GOP pol in America was screaming jobs, jobs, jobs! They've insisted their opposition to Romney/Obamacare (an idea first hatched at the right-wing think tank of the Heritage Foundation) wasn't mere partisanship but, based in no small measure on how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a "job killer."

Sooo ... how do the magical "job creators," their voodoo economists and echo chamber explain how Romneycare has actually played out in the Bay State? It seems some folks got some 'splainin' to do.