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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/19/2011

Small business and the health care repeal

By Glenn Kessler

"Every day America's entrepreneurs and small-business owners are finding more ways to access affordable health care insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. We have some very important data recently, which is that after years of dropping coverage, the number of small businesses offering health insurance to their workers is actually going up. This is according to the Kaiser Family Foundation: nine percent more small businesses with less than 200 employees provided coverage in 2010 compared with 2009, and for those with less than 10 employees, the expansion in coverage was even bigger. It was 13 percent."
--Karen G. Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration, January 18, 2011

As the House Republican push to repeal last year's health care law comes to a final vote Wednesday, Obama administration officials and Democratic lawmakers have been pressing their case that repeal would have disastrous consequences. A telephone conference call on Tuesday organized by the White House was typical, with both SBA Administrator Mills and acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank speaking to reporters about the impact of repeal on U.S. business. Mills opened her statement with the assertion above. Sounds impressive, but is it?

The Facts

There are red flags whenever someone attributes huge swings in data to a single cause--in this case the new health care law. Could so many more small businesses really be signing up for health insurance because of a law that only passed ten months ago?

The answer is no.

Mills, to her credit, cited her source, the Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 annual survey of Employer Health Benefits. And her statistics are correct. It's just that they have nothing to do with the new health care law.

First, the survey was taken between January and May of last year, so much of the data was collected before the law even passed. Final passage of the health care bill was so uncertain at the start of 2010--remember the unexpected victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race and the loss of the Democratic filibuster-proof majority?--that few companies would be making business decisions on the assumption the health care overhaul would be signed into law.

Second, the Kaiser report specifically says the analysts were puzzled by the shift in small business figures, but were pretty sure it did not mean more firms were signing up to provide health insurance to their employees. "Given the slow economic recovery and high unemployment, it seems unlikely that many firms began offering coverage," the report said. "A possible explanation is that non-offering firms were more likely to fail during the past year, and the attrition of non-offering firms led to a higher offer rate among surviving firms."

"We were just guessing, obviously," said Gary Claxton, main author of the report. "But certainly we have not tried to say it was because of the ACA," the Affordable Care Act. He said it was unlikely many firms surveyed in the few weeks after the bill passed would have added health insurance because they would have had not enough information about what was in the legislation.

A third problem is that the data set for small firms is too small to be significant. Kaiser surveyed more 2,000 companies, but only about 100 had fewer than ten employees. For the 2011 survey now in progress, Kaiser is asking whether the health care law is encouraging more small firms to sign up for coverage. But Claxton said that the sample size would likely be too small to reach any firm conclusions.

A similar survey in California, the California Employer Health Benefits Survey, was taken after the law passed, from April though July of 2010. It showed the worker coverage at small and large firms continued on a downward slope, though the differences from year to year were not statistically significant. The survey did find, however, that 60 percent of the firms in California with fewer than 25 workers were aware of a tax credit in the bill that would allow small firms to offset premium contributions--and that 57 percent of those firms were planning to take advantage of the tax provision. There is some anecdotal evidence that health insurance companies are aggressively marketing the tax credit to sign up new customers, but no rigorous survey has proven that the law has made an impact in the overall percentage of small businesses offering health insurance.

The Pinocchio Test

There may be some emerging evidence that small businesses are intrigued by provisions in the health care law but Mills erred badly when she touted "some very important data" about the impact of the law. A simple check of the report she cited showed exactly the opposite. A spokesman for Mills said she "did not specifically say that Kaiser attributed the increase to the tax credits" but that's a stretch. The clear implication of her comments was that the Kaiser survey is evidence of the success of the health care law. Not so.

Three Pinocchios

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By Glenn Kessler  | January 19, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Health  
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Next: Clinton, Obama, China and Human Rights


Thanks very much for this careful analysis. This is exactly the sort of reporting the Washington Post used to do a lot more of, back when it was building its reputation as one of the nation's best newspapers.

Posted by: VirginiaIndependent | January 19, 2011 8:31 AM | Report abuse

So this liberal ‘fact’ about ObamaCare is incorrect?

Why am I not surprised another liberal ‘fact’ about ObamaCare fails under review in the light of day!

Posted by: bcarte1 | January 19, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Thomas Sowell, "When you put out a fire; what do you replace it with?" is an analogy many Republicans love using when if comes to anything they don't like.

But all Facts are left out of the arguement.

If that fire is cooking your Dinner; you relight it.

If it Burns down your house; you Rebuild if you can afford to or have insurance to pay most of the costs involved.

When the Fire in your heart Dies; There is no way to bring it back. You try as you might to keep it from going out and that is where Insurance helps everyone who can afford it.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | January 19, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Another Obamacare sham "fact" debunked.

Posted by: Fontana1 | January 19, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

One question. Is the so called "Doctor Fix" in the "Base Costs" to which the cost of "Obama Care" is being compared to determine if “Obama Care” is going to increase the cost of Health Insurance or not?
If the cost of the "doc fix” is in the base and not in the cost of "Obama Care" than you do not have a true accounting. The cost of the "doc fix" must be in both sides of the equation or left out of both sides of the equation. You cannot include it in only one side or you will have an inaccurate accounting comparison and an inaccurate estimate of the incremental costs for comparison to the base. The reason it has to be included or excluded from both sides is because it exists and is not going away. I would be inclined to leave it out of both sides of the equation, and so state, when reporting the incremental costs of Obama care when comparing it to what the costs would be if the health system were left alone over the 10 year period that seems to be involved in all the projections.

Posted by: nychap44 | January 19, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie suggested in an interview published today that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.

Question: Are there long-form, hospital-generated birth certificates within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health for other births on the same day Obama was born?

Posted by: nychap44 | January 19, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

If you want to know the truth about the healthcare bill, just spend 3 minutes listening Paul Ryan explain this bill. If link doesn't work , just google "Paul Ryan: this bill is a fiscal house of cards"

The media meme is that repeal will raise the is the same as the democrat talking point. They do no fact finding on this , they just repeat what they are told from democrats

absolutely corrupt , lazy , and stupid institution our media has become.

Posted by: cmdriker | January 19, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

What is it about Obamacare that people dislike? How is it that much different from the status quo?

Long long long before Obamacare was ever in our vocabulary the Big 3 and many unions were voicing their concerns about the high cost of the medical insurance industry.

Posted by: rheckler2002 | January 19, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Now that is funny. A few days ago factchecker debunked a few of the GOP talking points and people blasted the Post for being an Obama puppet and here is one calling out a Dem talking point and people are praising the Post.

Gotta love it...Slam it when it goes against your position and then embrace it when it agrees with your position...

Posted by: Krazijoe | January 19, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Well done! I wish everybody was as careful in there analysis and took such much trouble in laying it out; there'd be a lot less confusion about the "facts".

Posted by: andrew23boyle | January 19, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The first question should have been, "How does a civilized society pay for health care?" But Senator Baucus never let that subject be discussed. So now we have decided without discussion that employers, those who provide jobs, should bear the health care burden ... PER EMPLOYEE.

Posted by: LHO39 | January 19, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I wish fact checker would delve into the cost savings of Obamacare.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 19, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the speech by Paul Ryan was worth checking into.

Maybe the fact checker should analyze THAT speech, as it gets into the crux of the spending associated with Obamacare.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 19, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The right was against Womens Voting Rights, the right was against the Civil Rights Act, the right was against the Minumum Wage, the right was against Social Security, the right was against Medicare, etc etc.

20 years from now you won't be able to find a Republican who will claim to have opposed Health Care Reform, in fact they'll probably claim credit for it.

If Republicans really believe that this moderate Health Care Reform bill that just passed is so bad they should be forced to give up their own gov't/taxpayer funded gold plated Health Care package that they get just by being a member of congress.

The Republican party hates the hardworking American middle-class and they always have. Every single one of their policies does nothing but make the rich. richer. Heck, they just got done holding the entire congressional agenda hostage in exchange for an EXTRA $700 Billion in unfunded, deficit inflating tax cuts for Billionaires, Big Oil and Mega Corporations.


Posted by: DrainYou | January 19, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I've been reading these fact checkers and accompaning comments section for a while now and notice a patern. When ever the fact checks debunk Republican talking points there is a tsunami of Republican commentors swooping down to debunk it as a product of a liberal newspaper but when the fact check should happen to support Republican talking points those same Commentators are quick to puff out their chest and say "you see? I was right all along". Either you beleive this column is unbiased or you don't.

Posted by: 6thsense79 | January 19, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Too funny! Yes this column is biased. I knew it would be negative towards health care reform before I even read it. ESP? I think not.

Posted by: dnbulmer | January 19, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Since taking control of the House, Republicans have:

Read an edited version of the Constitution on C-SPAN.

Changed budget rules to allow tax cuts without worrying about the budgetary consequences.

Begun planning investigative witch hunts to annoy the White House.

Introduced legislation to reinstate DADT.

And started debate over a symbolic repeal of health care reform, even though the Senate won't consider the repeal bill even if it passes.

Notice anything missing from the GOP's agenda?

That's right, jobs.







Posted by: DrainYou | January 19, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post propaganda department rolls out their own version of "Fact Checker". Sure, we'll buy it. . . Anything you say. . . Right. . . LOL

The Obama Administration has quietly granted even more waivers to the new federal health reform law which now includes hundreds of companies, unions and certain religions while providing exemption status to millions of individuals.

“If you’re a friend of the administration, you get a waiver, and it will cut your costs dramatically,” Gohmert said. “If you’re not a friend, you don’t get the waiver. You won’t compete with the friends of Obama. You’ll go out of business. Government shouldn’t have that kind of power."

Posted by: Pembroke60 | January 19, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Nychap, way to stay on topic. Birther conspiracies have been thououghly debunked. This is just another example of the right wing trying to delegitimize everyone who disagrees with them. Go pound sand.

Posted by: Northstar1 | January 19, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Nychap, way to stay on topic. Birther conspiracies have been thououghly debunked. This is just another example of the right wing trying to delegitimize everyone who disagrees with them. Go pound sand.

Posted by: Northstar1 | January 19, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

It is a lie that the right was against the civil rights act. In fact, it was for it. The dems incongress voted against it. Then, when a dem was president, the civil rights act passed. I should have looked up to see if the republicans controlled congress at the time. However, the civil rights act would have occurred sooner if not for the democrats.

The right was correct to be against social security and medicare. The government has used the money we paid in and now the 2 entities are going broke. Socialism does not work. Progressive/liberal/marxists never see this. If we are not already, we will soon be SLAVES to a government who promises everything but can give us nothing.

Posted by: annnort | January 19, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Northstar1, birthers have not been debunked. No one has seen Obama's long form birth certificate nor any of his college records. We have not even seen his records as an Ill legislator nor the reasons for the loss of his lawyers license. When you have no original records you can not debunk anything. Why do you think many states are adding a law that without an official birth certificate, a person's name can not be on the ballot in the state? This may keep Obama off many ballots in 2012.

Posted by: annnort | January 19, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Abolish the SBA.

Posted by: drowningpuppies | January 19, 2011 10:19 PM | Report abuse

annort, please don't confuse the "right" with "Republican". The Southern Democrats of the 1960's are the Southern Republicans of today. After the Civil Rights Act passed, there was a shift in the America's political demographics. Southern Democrats started voted Republican and blacks started were aligned with the Democratic party.

Don't change history so you'll have a better conscious about what people with your ideology were for back then.

The "right", back in the 60's were just like they are today. Backward looking and resistant to social change with an irrational fear that Government was intruding on their individual liberties, while at the same time trying to restrict the individual liberties of others different from them (think gay people in today's world)

Posted by: sportsman885 | January 20, 2011 4:31 AM | Report abuse

4 Important - Unreported,and Easy to Verify FACTS:

1) The Republicans hated that the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.

A fact witnessed by the majority of Americans who were forced to listen to the endless and non-productive manner in which Republicans and Democrats were unwilling to work together for the betterment of their country.

The new Republican Speaker of The House, Mr. John Boehner, in his maiden speech to the Press reported that nothing of any positive meaning to the budget deficit, nor any budget for that fact, had been passed since Pres. Obama was elected.

However, Mr. Boehner failed to report that the Republican Party is determined to come out strong and to show the Democratic Party that they will have it their own way, and that they are willing to WASTE MORE TAXPAYER DOLLARS undoing what they have dragged their heels to accomplish so far.

In addition, the new Speaker of The House, Mr. Boehner reported that the Republicans were going to go back to the level of spending in the 2008 budget, but he failed to report where they would make the magical cuts to be able to accomplish that trick.

Mr. Boehner statements have left many Social Security, Disabled, and others who haven't received a increase in their monthly checks for the last 3 years, worrying if the Republican Party is now going to try to decrease their hard- to- live- on monthly checks, or to raise their unaffordable Medicare Premiums, or even to try and take away what health care they now have.

2) Another way that Politicians manipulate the numbers is by not reporting a truly verifiable number of unemployed people.

At any given reporting time the unemployment statistics can be higher and/or lower than reported to the American People, because the total number of unemployed people comes from a list of unemployed who are receiving unemployment benefits. Therefore, the unemployed person who is no longer receiving unemployment benefits isn't counted in the unemployment totals.

That same still unemployed person drops off of the unemployment statistics and if still unable to find a job can show up as a new person and/or family added to the Welfare recipient list totals.

3) The mass majority of the American People are totally disgusted with the indecisive Politicians who Waste The Taxpayers' Dollars while dragging their heels on issues.

And, the American People are tired of having their lives and/or livelihood negatively impacted by any elected Politicians' inability and/or unwillingness to work together in a timely and effective manner.

4) Much of the world has looked to this country for examples on how to do elect their political leaders.

Our own political leaders are setting a very poor example of how to run a country when they consistently bicker among themselves over which party has the most power and which party will hold out the longest for whatever greedy reason.

Posted by: dove28 | January 23, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

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