With just over a month to go before Obamacare’s state-level marketplaces open for business, the rhetoric swirling around the implementation of the health reform law has intensified. And thanks to a mounting pile of media-manufactured “scandals” that Obamacare opponents claim will bring down the law, it can be difficult to separate the facts from the fiction.
Of course, implementing health reform won’t be flawless at every step of the way. But it’s also not exactly the train wreck that opponents claim. Here are five popular myths circulating about Obamacare’s presumed impact that you shouldn’t be so quick to believe:
1. Obamacare will cause young people’s insurance premiums to skyrocket.
Mainstream media outlets and conservative pundits have consistently speculated about impending “rate shock” under Obamacare, claiming that the young and healthy Americans who will be required to buy health insurance under the law will face very high premiums. As states finalize the plans that they will offer on Obamacare’s new insurance marketplaces, stories focusing on the “huge premium spikes” due to the health law have added fuel to the fire.
In reality, however, much of that coverage is sensationalized. It’s difficult to project generalities about how premiums will affect every American in a particular state, but it’s important to remember that many people will qualify for federal assistance to help them buy insurance. A recent study from the Commonwealth Fund estimates that more than 80 percent of the estimated 16 million young people who don’t currently have health care will qualify for some kind of subsidized coverage under Obamacare. They’ll either receive federal subsidies to help them buy insurance plans on the state-level marketplaces, or they’ll qualify for Medicaid coverage after the health law expands the public program’s enrollment pools.
Stories that focus on the “new” cost of premiums typically aren’t taking in account the fact that most young adults won’t be paying for that total cost on their own — or the fact that you can’t really compare the premiums for a bare-bones plan to the premiums for a plan that actually provides adequate coverage.
2. Obamacare is incredibly unpopular, so most Americans want to get rid of it and Congress wants to exempt itself from it.
One of the most widespread talking points against the health reform law is that no one actually likes it. Obamacare opponents consistently point to polls that say Americans want to repeal the law, and have recently claimed that the law is so distasteful that Congress is trying to exempt itself from it.
But that’s not actually the whole story. While it’s true that most Americans say they don’t like the health reform law as a whole, polling has repeatedly shown that’s largely because they don’t understand what it actually does. The politicized battle over health care reform has taught Americans that “Obamacare” is a bad word, but they tend to like the law’s specific provisions without even realizing they’re part of Obamacare. Furthermore, even despite Americans’ tendency to react negatively to the law as the whole, they still don’t support defunding it.
That trend holds true even for the Republicans who have been crusading against Obamacare for the better part of the past three years. GOP lawmakers talk about repealing the whole law, but then concede they’d like to keep its most popular provisions intact. They badmouth the law in public, but take money from it in private.
And the controversy over Congress seeking an Obamacare exemption is entirely manufactured. In reality, the issue stems from a Republican-sponsored amendment to the health law requiring lawmakers to get their insurance on the new marketplaces, just like uninsured Americans. The GOP senator who offered the amendment expected Democrats to turn it down, but it made it into the final version of the law anyway. Now, the administration is simply trying to deal with the mess that created — since the marketplaces were always intended for uninsured people, not people who already have access to health care through their employers.
3. Obamacare is using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.
Abortion coverage was a sticking point during the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act, and continues to stoke controversy three years later. Many anti-abortion lawmakers have seized on the opportunity to ban their state’s marketplaces from including any plans that cover abortion, which may give the impression that Obamacare would otherwise require abortion coverage. In reality, the health law simply left it up to each state to decide. Each state has the option of providing insurance plans that offer abortion coverage in their marketplaces, and must also offer at least one plan that doesn’t cover abortion services.
Making the situation more complicated still is the Republican-sponsored amendment that requires members of Congress to get their coverage through the marketplaces, which has raised questions about whether those lawmakers — who have been barred from receiving coverage for abortion services — will end up with plans that cover the procedure. Nonetheless, the federal government will not fund abortion under the health law. Obamacare stipulates that the insurers offering abortion coverage on the marketplaces must separate out federal money so it doesn’t go toward that type of reproductive care.
Another point of contention is the federal grants that the Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded to over 100 nonprofit organizations to assist in their efforts to enroll people in Obamacare. Abortion opponents are outraged that Planned Parenthood affiliates in Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC were among the grant recipients, and are now suggesting that these funds might go toward abortion services. But the Obamacare grant money has nothing whatsoever to do with abortion. “These grants will enable local Planned Parenthood affiliates to help people enroll in new, more affordable insurance plans that cover preventive care, maternity care, and emergency care,” a spokesperson for the organization explained.
4. Obamacare is forcing companies to slash employees’ hours and shorten the work week.
Over the past year, a growing list of large companies in the service sector have warned that Obamacare will force them to cut back their workers’ hours. The health law requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide adequate health benefits to anyone who works at least 30 hours a week — and CEOs are saying they can’t afford that, so they’ll need to make sure their employees don’t work more than 30 hours so they won’t qualify for coverage.
Large companies are blaming this move specifically on the health law. But in reality, Obamacare just serves as a convenient scapegoat for anti-labor practices. Employers have been attempting to shift more health costs onto workers for the past decade, and workers’ health care costs have been skyrocketing as the same time as their wages have stagnated. Indeed, studies have shown that large employers were trying to slash workers’ hours long before Obamacare was around. Most large companies aren’t actually planning to slash their employees’ benefits specifically in response to health reform, despite the headlines proclaiming otherwise.
Nonetheless, the narrative that Obamacare is killing the business sector has persisted — and begun to devolve into pure nonsense. Crossroad GPS’ latest anti-Obamacare ad misleadingly claims that the health reform law now “redefines full-time as 30 hours a week,” which threatens jobs and wages for people who want to work more than that. Obamacare does no such thing. In reality, it simply hopes to protect 30-hour-a-week workers by making sure their employers are required to extend adequate health coverage to them. It’s not a particularly radical concept. Starbucks, for example, already provides health insurance to every employee who works at least 20 hours a week.
5. Obamacare is causing workers’ spouses to lose their health coverage.
Now that the myth about companies being forced to slash workers’ hours has been solidified, Obamacare opponents are onto a slightly modified version of the doomsday predictions about the health law’s impact on the business sector. After shipping company UPS announced that it would drop its employees’ spouses from its insurance coverage — specifically citing the health law — critics jumped on the news as evidence that Obamacare will be catastrophic for workers.
UPS cited increased costs under the health law to justify the move, but health insurance experts are skeptical that’s really the primary reason that the company decided to save money by eliminating spousal benefits. Instead, as an editorial from Bloomberg suggested, UPS is likely “using the health-care law as a smokescreen for cutting costs it wanted to cut anyway.”
It makes sense that companies would be looking to trim their health costs, and shifting spousal coverage is one way to do it. But the media coverage of UPS’ move has largely left out the fact that Obamacare actually makes it much easier for the company to consider the move in the first place. Thanks to the health reform law, the spouses of UPS employees won’t be left out in the cold without any options to get insurance. They’ll be able to get it through their own employers — who will now be required to provide it — or through Obamacare’s new state-level insurance marketplaces.