You've heard a lot of complaining about the Affordable Care Act from employers and members of the health care industry. But will they be cheering next week, when House Republicans vote to repeal it? It sure doesn't look like it. As National Public Radio, the Wall Street Journal, and several other outlets reported this week, most of these groups are ambivalent about repeal and several are speaking out against it.
Among the most outspoken has been Helen Darling, head of the National Business Group on Health, who's been a part of health care debates for as long as I've been covering the issue and had this to say to the Journal: "I don't think we'll get a better solution in the U.S. in our lifetime ... If it gets repealed, or gutted, we'll have to start over and we'll be worse off." As David Wessel, the column's author, concluded, "Talking about repeal of the health law may be a winning political strategy for Republicans, a rare way to please both workers and business executives. As long as they don't actually succeed in doing it."
None of this should be surprising. One of the main reasons so many politicians started talking about health care reform in the run-up to the 2008 election was the recognition that everybody in the system was fed up. It wasn't just individual consumers and employees, struggling to pay for their coverage and--when it lapsed--their medical bills. It was employers struggling with the costs of their benefits. Doctors and hospitals struggling with the cost of uncompensated care. And so on. When President Obama began to pursue reform formally in 2009, he and his allies on Capitol Hill reached out to these groups: The result was a plan that embraced their ideas and accommodated their concerns.
I'd be lying if I said I was entirely happy about this. In many though not all cases, what's good for business groups isn't so good for the rest of us. Employers care a lot more about minimizing benefit costs, for example, than they do about making sure benefits are adequate. I also continue to think the pharmaceutical industry ended up with a sweetheart deal.
Still, it's a reminder that the Affordable Care Act is not the radical government takeover of medicine right wing critics make it out to be. In fact, as that NPR story makes clear, a lot of these reforms were already underway, even before the Affordable Care Act passed. What the law will do is accelerate and strengthen them, while simultaneously using the financial benefits to help reduce the deficit and to protect more Americans from high medical expenses.