Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Reality Bites: Massachusetts Economy Proves Health Care Reform Didn't Destroy Businesses

 

The buzzword flying around America lately has been "health care," with its permutations, Obamacare and Romneycare, evoked in equal measure. Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, sanctioning it as the law of the land. But, that didn't stop the House of Representatives from continuing their efforts to halt its implementation.

Wednesday, the House of Representatives challenged the landmark Supreme Court decision by holding a vote to repeal the ACA. The vote marked the 31st time the House has attempted to repeal, limit or defund the law. While the House passed the measure by a vote of 244 to 185, it is destined to die there as the Democratic Majority in the Senate have discounted it as nothing more than political theater.

Perhaps nowhere could the drama surrounding the ACA been more prominently displayed this week than at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR). Indeed, the day before the vote to repeal the law, the House OGR Committee held a hearing entitled, "Examining the Impact of Obamacare on Job Creators and the Economy." The hearing featured four small business owners, including Dan Wolf, CEO of Cape Air, Massachusetts State Senator and a Member of the Alliance for Business Leadership.

Members of the House Committee noted the stark discrepancy in the testimonies of the business leaders. Those who hailed from Ohio and Wisconsin -- including Jamie Richardson, VP of White Castle System, Inc.; Mary Millerm CEO of JANCOA Janitorial Services; and Michael Fredrich, President of MCM Composites -- where health care reform has not yet been implemented, claimed that the ACA would cost jobs and ruin the economy. Yet, Wolf, who spoke to his experience with the 2006 health care reform law in Massachusetts -- the template for the ACA -- and how it has affected his business and the state's economy, delivered a dose of reality.-

Since implementation of the MA health care reform law, signed by then-Governor Mitt Romney, Wolf testified that Cape Air has "added a solid 15 percent more MA-based jobs, with our total revenue growing far faster." While his business saw a 5 percent increase in health insurance premiums this year, Wolf stated that the cost was, "too much, but far from the 15 to 20 percent increases we saw year after year before reform took effect."

Not only has health care reform been good for Cape Air, but Wolf argued the law has neither soured the business climate in Massachusetts nor ruined state's economy. "Unemployment in Massachusetts has dropped from 8 percent in 2009 to 5.8 percent in May of this year. This is 2.4 percent below the national average. Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation in job creation this year, adding 37,800 new jobs through May. And, since January 2007, Massachusetts has ranked third in the nation in economic performance, as defined by gross state product."

In response to Wolf's testimony, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) stated, "the Massachusetts experience contradicts the national doomsayers, who have nothing to base their opinions on but speculation. We have seldom had a real-time example presented to us. But, the state laboratory of Massachusetts gives us a Republican model from Republican governor." It's a model that's working in Massachusetts, and has tremendous promise for the rest of the country.

That promise was overlooked by several Members of the Committee, who remained concerned about the role of government in implementing the ACA. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) asked Wolf, "Are there any limits on Congress's authority to dictate what businesses have to do? What's the intersection between federal power,state power and individual responsibility?" Senator Wolf answered, "That's not my approach. I look at it as, how can we partner? It's not a question of limitation, but opportunity."

"My primary goal is to help government and private business partner in ways that make our communities healthier and our economy stronger," Wolf stated in his testimony. Wolf is not the only business leader who shares this perspective, though the buzz on Capitol Hill would lead one to believe this is new to Congress. The Alliance for Business Leadership is a community of job creators who embrace Wolf's framework, and they tell similar stories about how both the moral and economic imperative are served by Romneycare and Obamacare. After all, they are essentially the same thing.

Even as Congress tries to muddy the waters after the Supreme Court opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act, one thing is clear: If government and business can align around the urgent moral, business and fiscal imperatives that made health care reform essential, the nation can put this challenge behind it and go to work together on the next one.

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