After Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital bought the office supply maker SCM, laid off workers, gutted pay and benefits, and ultimately shut down the entire plant, former SCM employee Valerie Bruton was left with no choice but to turn to the safety net. In the Obama campaign ad, “Romney Economy,” she recalls:
When SCM shut down the doors, that was the first time I’d ever been in the system with food stamps. Then I had to get on Medicaid. It was just, it was rough, but I did it…I had no choice because I had my babies, my babies depended on me.
She was hardly alone. All 258 employees were fired immediately, then invited to reapply for their jobs at a lower wage and a 50 percent cut in health insurance. When the workers went on strike, the plant was shuttered.
Under Romney, Bain Capital replicated this “vulture capitalism,” laying off workers and slashing health care benefits. In 1993, Bain bought Kansas City’s Worldwide Grinding Systems steel mill. Less than a decade later, the mill was shuttered and 750 people were out of work. But even more importantly, “workers were denied the severance pay and health insurance they’d been promised, and their pension benefits were cut by as much as $400 a month,” reported Reuters. The federal Pension Benefits Guarantee Corp had to make up the difference, which were slashed again in bankruptcy court.
Now that he’s running for president, Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his faith in the free market. Here are two scenarios of how these workers would fare under Obamacare and under Romney’s plan.
— Workers facing cuts in employer coverage or a firing would no longer need to brave the individual market alone. Instead they would go to the state-run Exchanges, which help navigate different plans and payments and limit out-of-pocket spending in plans, keeping individual costs in control.
— Individuals and families who earn between 133 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line would receive tax credits to help them purchase insurance. Families can qualify for an average annual credit of $5,210.
— A study from Health Affairs found that if Obamacare had been implemented between 2001 and 2008, “having out-of-pocket expenditures on care exceeding $6,000 would have been reduced for all adults with individual insurance, and the likelihood of having expenditures exceeding $4,000 would have been reduced for many.”
— Large employers that cut benefits like Bain did at SCM would have to pay a penalty for each employee who receives a tax credit to help them purchase insurance.
— Without employer coverage, laid off workers would have to turn to the individual market to purchase insurance, where they would risk being denied coverage or struggle with high premiums.
— Romney’s plan offers a tax deduction for workers to buy individual insurance, but it also allows insurers to dodge certain state consumer protections and sell cheap, bare-bone policies to young healthy worker across state lines.
— Insurance companies would still be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, impose permanent exclusions for preexisting medical conditions and set rates skewed by age, health status, and gender.
— Individuals who can’t find affordable coverage — or are pushed out by increasing costs — could “form purchasing pools” and try to purchase insurance this way. Large groups of sick people are expensive to insure, however, and will be unlikely to afford their premiums without additional subsidies.
— For older workers, Medicare would no longer be a safe bet. Romney plans to turn it into a voucher program, where a beneficiary is given a pre-determined amount of money with which to either buy private insurance or traditional Medicare. The government’s contribution will not keep up with rising health care costs, meaning seniors will have to spend more on care each year.