Some readers are tired of stories on Obamacare, the Supreme Court decision, and politics. If this describes you, feel free to stop reading. But interest remains high for many Plastics News readers. MIke Verespej's story "Obamacare ruling means medical device tax starts in 2013," is one of the most-read, and most-commented upon, stories on PlasticsNews.com So for those readers, let's keep the conversation alive. I'll start us off with links to two items from Plastics News sister publications. First, from Workforce Management magazine, a news story, "HR Leaders Scrambling After Supreme Court's Health Care Reform Ruling." The story, by senior writer Rita Pyrillis, has a plastics angle that's perhaps typical of what a lot of manufacturers were saying last week: "I was hoping, really hoping, but I was not confident that it would be overturned," said Diane Harrington, human resources director for Otto Environmental Systems North America Inc., a manufacturer of plastic waste containers based in Charlotte, North Carolina. "There are just too many liberals on the court." Harrington told Workforce Management that she is worried about the impact the law will have on her 325-employee self-insured company's bottom line. "With future cost increases, Medicaid expenditures and all the additional employees we will have to cover, there's this fear of the unknown," Harrington said. The story also quotes Dan Levin, an actuary with Buck Consultants in Chicago, who says employers will now decide on whether to continue providing health care benefits based on their industry and the size and nature of their workforce. "The smaller employers will be more likely to say, 'OK, maybe we want to get out of business because it's very expensive to insure people in a smaller market and it just makes more sense to get out," Levin said. "So we'll pay the penalty and give our employees some money to purchase insurance on the exchanges. But the larger the employer is, the more inertia there is. If you had [health care insurance] all these years for all these employees, it's not so easy to eliminate your plans." The plastics industry is populated with thousands of small employers -- the kind that Levin is talking about. Will many of them drop health insurance plans in the wake of the Supreme Court decision? Or will they wait to see exactly how the mandate will impact their bottom line? Second, let's consider the editorial from my colleague Neil McLaughlin, managing editor of Modern Healthcare magazine. The column is headlined "It's about time: Court's ruling caps a century of reform struggle and policy twists." McLaughlin starts with a historical view of the issue, noting that when Theodore Roosevelt ran for president in 1912 on the Progressive Party ticket, he endorsed a national healthcare plan. "In the 1990s, conservative analysts devised their own reform plans. That thinking coalesced around a system of private insurance plans. It's outlined in a 1991 Health Affairs article titled 'A Plan for Responsible National Health Insurance.' Here are two key points from that paper: '(3) All citizens should be required to obtain a basic level of health insurance,' and '(4) The obligation to obtain basic health insurance should be placed on the individual, not the employer.' "More than 20 prominent Republican lawmakers sponsored insurance-market legislation with an individual mandate. It was an alternative to President Bill Clinton's proposal. "But after Obama won in 2008, Republicans and conservatives rejected any Democratic proposal, and the Democrats eventually passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act out of political desperation. Republicans denounced the conservative plan as unconstitutional socialism." What's changed? According to McLaughlin, it's a symptom of the nation's polarized political landscape, where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, all line up on opposite sides of issues regardless of what's best for the country. "Today, public policy no longer matters, even if it's your own policy. If your political opponent endorses a measure, it must be rejected," he wrote. "The moral debate is usually avoided in the U.S. in favor of economic considerations. Nonetheless, a country that guarantees its people the means to life's necessities embraces human decency and national unity. In her ACA opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quoted from a 1785 letter from George Washington to James Madison: 'We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support ...' "And at this moment in history, we could use more national unity and less political gamesmanship." It's a persuasive argument from a journalist who's been watching this debate at Modern Healthcare since 1986. But with a national election just over four months away, I don't expect any bipartisan agreement on healthcare -- or anything else, really -- through the remainder of 2012.
Different views on Obamacare
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