During an interview with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday night, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus made a rather bold prediction about President Obama’s second term, asserting that the president’s “brand” would suffer over the next four years as Americans come to grips with what Priebus paints as the dire consequences of health care reform.
Priebus was reacting to a just-released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report with updated projections on the federal budget and Americans’ insurance coverage under Obamacare. The report reassessed the number of Americans who will no longer receive employer-sponsored health insurance as the health law takes effect, increasing it from 4 million to 7 million Americans. This led Priebus to forecast a slippery slope in which more and more Americans lose their health coverage, indelibly tainting Obamacare’s — and President Obama’s — public image:
PRIEBUS: I think over time people are going to see, over the next four years, that this is not going to be a new story, this is going to be — next year — another story is going to come out and instead of seven million people dropped off the health care rolls, you’ll find it’s going to be 14 million… And more people aren’t going to be able to keep the insurance that they were promised. Businesses are out there saying, wait a second, this is too expensive and so we’re not going to provide this to our employees, so what we’re going to do is drop the insurance, pay the fine and it’s cheaper, and people are going to be left out in the cold. We knew this was going to happen, and we said it’s going to happen, and I think over time the Obama brand — the next four years — the reality of what the truth is going to be under his signature program, which was Obamacare, is going to go down in flames and people aren’t going to like it.
But there isn’t actually any evidence supporting Priebus’s claim that the number of Americans losing employer-sponsored insurance will somehow double next year. As Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff explained on Wednesday, the reason the CBO increased its projections of Americans who would lose employer-provided coverage is due to the recent “fiscal cliff” deal that set low income tax rates on those making less than $450,000. As Kliff noted, “providing health insurance as a tax-free form of income becomes less attractive when marginal tax rates are lower — and when a publicly-subsidized option becomes available.” Ironically, this problem would have been exacerbated even further if GOP leaders like Priebus and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had gotten their way and codified lower tax rates for millionaires and billionaires.
And it’s misleading to equate Americans losing their employer-sponsored insurance with Americans losing any form of insurance — particularly since Americans who lose employer-sponsored coverage can still receive federal subsidies to help them purchase private insurance on the individual marketplace. Predictions of how many employers will drop coverage may also be overblown, as studies have shown that Obamacare only modestly increases large businesses’ health care costs while actually lowering costs for small businesses.
As part-time workers, the poor, and Americans with pre-existing and costly medical conditions learn more about the law’s substantial benefits for them, support for repealing Obamacare has plunged to an all-time low. In the meantime, however, it appears that reform critics will continue their misleading smear campaigns against the health care overhaul.