Tennesee Gov. Phil Bredesen is driving today’s AP story front-paged in the News and Observer that “some experts” believe employers will drop health coverage because of the new health reform law.
To get to Bredesen’s point, one must set aside the real-world experience of Massachusetts where health care reform enactment several years ago resulted in no significant loss of employer-based coverage despite much weaker penalties for large employers who drop coverage than in the federal reform law. One must also accept the mindset that says most American companies care so little about doing the right thing for their workers that they would severely disrupt decades of employee and family health coverage in a heartbeat if they feel it might save a few pennies. Finally, one has to set aside the independent nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that very few employers nationwide would drop coverage. This is because the current substantial tax benefits for employers who offer health coverage combined with the requirement to contribute if businesses fail to offer coverage mean it just doesn’t make financial or business sense for employers to drop benefits.
And Bredesen doesn’t exactly have a very good track record himself when it comes to fixing the health care system. Five years ago he cut over 200,000 sick, disabled and older people in Tennessee off the state’s Medicaid program in a draconian effort to reduce health costs. Cindy Mann, Director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown said at the time:
”What he’s decided to do is save health care costs simply by not giving people health care.”
So Bredesen is right in character. Rather than starting the discussion about how to best use the tools in the new health reform law to start to reduce health costs for businesses and governments, he’s attempting to take an ax to the premise that everyone should be able to afford decent coverage.
Bredesen may also harbor some resentments from a bruising he took from health advocates that deep-sixed his chances to be Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services last year. After all, how to explain his criticism of the national health law two weeks before the election?