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WaPo Columnist Dings Obamacare

Over the past year I’ve come to really enjoy the writing of liberal Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post. He is a welcome break from the chest-pounding simian antics of Paul Krugman of the Times. And he’s honest.

Today Samuelson has a very rational column pointing out that Obamacare’s rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. The opener:

Obamacare’s drawbacks

Expect a more expensive and confusing system.

Just recently, the Internal Revenue Service issued an 18-page, single-spaced notice explaining how to distinguish between full-time and part-time workers under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The difference matters, because the act requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance for those workers. At the same time, no company has to buy insurance for part-time employees, defined as those working less than 30 hours a week.

Here’s a sample:

This notice expands the safe harbor method described in a previous notice to provide employers the option to use a look-back measurement period of up to 12 months to determine whether new variable hour employees or seasonal employees are full-time employees, without being subject to a payment under section 4980H for this period with respect to those employees.

Obamacare has faded as a campaign issue, perhaps because it doesn’t suit either the president or Mitt Romney. It’s not popular, a minus for Barack Obama. Its resemblance to Romney’s Massachusetts program is a minus for him. But Obamacare’s relentless march to full-fledged introduction in 2014 demonstrates that, for all its good intentions, it will make the health-care system more confusing (see above), costly and contentious. It won’t control health spending — the system’s main problem — and will weaken job creation.

Consider the treatment of full-time and part-time workers as an object lesson.

Exempting part-time workers is a concession to practicality. If companies had to provide insurance for all part-time and seasonal workers — often unskilled and poorly paid — the high costs (a worker-only insurance policy can run more than $5,000) would eliminate many jobs or inspire mass evasion. On the other hand, exempting too many “part-time” and “seasonal” workers would make achieving near-universal insurance coverage much harder.

Do read the entire piece. It’s too bad that every liberal can’t give such an honest assessment of Obama’s signature program.

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