Last week, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong chose to tell a company-wide conference call that two AOL employees who had “distressed babies” requiring high health care costs and the Affordable Care Act was forcing him to make cuts to 401(k) benefits. Following the public outcry over this “distressed babies” comment, including a well written article by one of the baby’s parents, Armstrong reversed his position and reinstated the cuts.
The reality is that Armstrong was attempting to cut expenses while at the same time increasing organizational profits. AOL, despite record revenue in the past quarter has recorded less than stellar profits due to poor products. So Armstrong, rather than blaming his poor product for expenses, blames a couple of babies born prematurely and big, bad, Obamacare for his expenses. It is a great escape for the CEO and, if not for his disgusting baby comments, would have been accepted as fact.
Armstrong’s action reminds me of a few years ago when Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter attempted to claim that Obamacare would cause him to have to increase the cost of Pizza and reduce the number of employee hours, only to later claim that he was “misquoted” and then retract his claims.
The reality is, conservatives have done a very good job a demonizing the Affordable Care Act. As soon as the law was passed, we heard that it was a “massive government takeover of healthcare”, heard about “death panels”, and multiple lies about the cost. The California GOP even went as far as to set up a fake website with the intention of misleading the public.
Now Obamacare has become an easy excuse for employers to cut benefits. Because health care law is admittedly complex, and the GOP has done a great job with their negative public relations machine, many Americans are coming to expect these cuts.
I challenge everybody to question this assumption. As an employer, I have made the choice to provide good health coverage to my employees. It is my belief that a healthy employee is a more productive employee. I have seen historically consistent yet moderate increases in my premiums. Meanwhile, I have a friend who works in the oil industry and makes six figures a year. This year, blaming “Obamacare” his employer chose a plan that significantly increases the his out of pocket expenses. The reality is that employer has chosen high wages over good healthcare. That is a choice and has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. However, as the employees of the organization accumulate medical debt, are they going to blame the employer? No, they have been taught to blame Obama.
I have often said that I was for health care reform before the Affordable Care Act, and I am still for health care reform today. However, the GOP is not interested in making Health Care better. They were fine with the old broken program, and they are fine with the current broken program. They have benefited politically from both. They are now and have always only been interested in using health care reform as a political tool. The last two times that Republicans took control of the House; it was because of Healthcare reform (Hillarycare in 1994 and Obamacare in 2010). However, while the GOP inaction may be good for politics, it is bad for America.