Updated: August 3, 2011 6:02PM
As if President Barack Obama didn’t have enough re-election headaches with the nearly daily reports of dreary economic news, now comes a new harsh assessment of his signature legislative achievement, ObamaCare.
A survey of 1,300 employers by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that 30 percent say they likely will drop worker health-care coverage after the major provisions of the “Affordable Care Act” come into force in 2014. A central promise in Obama’s campaign to win passage of the act was that if you like your insurance, you wouldn’t lose it under ObamaCare. Republicans, think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and other critics challenged that claim but were dismissed as Democrats rammed the measure through Congress on a partisan vote.
Now the McKinsey survey confirms the warnings. What’s more, it found that among employers most knowledgeable about the details of the health-care overhaul, more than 50 percent said they were likely to drop coverage for their workers.
Remember the famous words of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? She said we had to pass ObamaCare to learn what’s in it. If the McKinsey survey is any guide, the more Americans learn about ObamaCare, the less they like it.
This wasn’t the first indication of trouble with the health-care overhaul. Its backers claimed 400,000 people with pre-existing conditions — usually uninsurable under the current system — would flock to ObamaCare’s high-risk pools. Only 18,000 had signed up by March.
Worse was the revelation that the act’s expensive requirements threatened current coverage for millions of Americans. The administration had to respond by granting waivers to 1,372 employers, unions and insurance companies.
No waivers will be permitted in 2014, when the law’s heavy-hitting provisions kick in requiring all but the smallest businesses to have medical coverage for employers or face a fine. The McKinsey findings indicate employers see economic benefits in paying the fine, increasing pay for their workers and letting them go to ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges to find coverage.
Despite Pelosi’s optimistic predictions, polls have rarely found an improvement in ObamaCare’s standing as voters learn more about it. And the passions of its opponents remain intense. That’s why it will be an important campaign issue in 2012, though how crucial may hinge on who Obama’s Republican opponent is.
The issue is a tough one for Mitt Romney, now leading in GOP polling (though not by a lot). As governor of Massachusetts, he championed a health-care reform measure much like the national act. Romney defends the program as a solution specific to the needs of Massachusetts and says other states should be free to pursue their own answers to their health-care insurance issues. He condemns ObamaCare as a failed one-size-fits-all solution that should be scrapped.
The central issue of the campaign will be the economy and jobs. There Romney has impressive credentials as a successful businessman, governor and problem solver who saved the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from financial ruin.
One attractive alternative to Romney is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, free of a Romneycare-type handicap. Pawlenty on Tuesday laid out an ambitious economic recovery program based on tried-and-true Ronald Reagan principles of lower tax rates, less federal spending and regulatory reform. His program won praise from conservative and business circles. The White House’s reflexive attack on it only underscored how the administration’s policies have failed.
While jobs will be issue one in 2012, ObamaCare, its big-government philosophy, its unpopular individual mandate and the partisan way it was forced through Congress highlight what’s wrong with the Obama presidency. It may give Pawlenty an edge over Romney as GOP primary voters get down to the serious business of picking a serious challenger to Obama.