Are you reading Ed Porter’s Economic Scene columns over at the NYT? Because you should be—they’re consistently well-crafted, muscular, reality-based, topical arguments on econ current events.
In today’s column, Porter takes a closer look at a point that you frequently hear these days: why does the extreme right hate Obamacare so much? As I noted the other day, I’ve lately run into people asking me that same question, including my 14 year-old (imagine being a kid trying to make sense of the grown-ups’ world right now…ugh).
A common, and correct, answer to this is that the law expands the scope of government, and once it’s in effect, its beneficiaries will like the security it provides them and their families, making it harder to destroy. Porter adds another important angle to this analysis, by considering more closely who the law will help most and why that matters.
That is, while the Medicaid expansions (in the states that accepted them) clearly target the poor, the subsidies that will make coverage more affordable for those without insurance through their jobs target the broad middle class. And that’s a group that a) has seen persistently negative wage and income trends, b) is the target of few social benefits (e.g., they’re ineligible for Medicaid), and c) is a critical voting bloc.
As Porter notes, “the law has many provisions that are likely to improve life for millions of Americans, including a big portion of what we know as the working middle class.”
Almost two-thirds of uninsured Americans have a full-time job, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A further 16 percent are employed part time.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently estimated that nearly six in 10 uninsured Americans could qualify for health coverage in the insurance market for less than $100 per person per month. [That price includes the subsidy—JB]
According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, 28 million Americans would gain health insurance under Obamacare. Of these, eight million earn more than twice the poverty level of $47,100 for a family of four. A majority of those would get a subsidy to buy a plan.
As it turns out, the core Tea Party demographic — working white men between the ages of 45 and 64 — would do fairly well under the law.
So, while there’s definitely some folks gettin’ their crazy on, there’s also method to their madness. And for those on the other side of that divide (which is not a partisan statement—there are conservatives who value affordable health coverage), in these dark days for governance and public policy, it’s even a touch uplifting to contemplate the fact that the ACA might actually help a lot of people who’ve been battered by unfavorable economic trends and policies for decades.