Political Health Debate Is Disjointed From Reality, Needs To Focus On How To Best Implement Reform

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is telling The Hill that health care reform will improve the Democrats’ chances in November, pointing to polls which show that the more people are asked about repealing health care reform the less they like it:

All the polls around the country, including Nevada, indicate that when people are presented with ‘Do you want to do away with giving 25,000 small businesses in Nevada a 3 percent discount on the healthcare?’ they all say no,” Reid explained in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. ” ‘Do you want to have Medicare extended for 19 years like we did it?’ They say yes. You don’t want to repeal that. ‘Do you want to open the doughnut hole again?’ They say no, so the more people know about healthcare, the better they like it.”

Reid is right to argue that Americans/small businesses don’t want the government to take away the tangible immediate benefits — checks to seniors in the doughnut hole, children on their parents’ coverage, tax credits — but I’m not so sure that they’re as confident in what’s coming in 2014. Republicans have caught on to this reality, taken credit for reform’s most popular and immediate provisions, and have moved on to shape the public’s perception towards the new reporting requirements and the exchanges, releasing reports that aim to discredit the new benefits before they’re even rolled out.

I suspect that businesses will be affected by reform in different ways. Behind the scenes, they’re already working with the relevant federal agencies to ensure that any new requirements don’t add unnecessary burdens. Nevertheless, the political debate isn’t about how best to implement reform for small businesses — it’s about whether we should have reform at all. As my colleague Lelsey Russell notes, that is an easier argument to win.

Today, she’s released a new report demonstrating what would happen to small businesses and their employees if reform was completely repealed:

Small businesses will pay 55 percent more in health care costs for their workers over the next 10 years.

128,000 jobs that could have been saved will be lost over the next decade as health care costs continue to escalate.

Small business employees will lose up to $309 billion in wages over the next 10 years as a consequence of health insurance’s increasing cost.

Projected benefits may not be as convincing as the tangible and immediate provisions, but so long as Republicans are painting the future in dark colors, it’s helpful to remind voters of the alternative. Read the full report HERE.