Conservatives have been criticizing the Affordable Care Act since President Obama signed it into law in 2010. They have doubled down on their criticism since the president delayed the employer mandate one year, and rightly so, especially since he has not even explained the legality of the decision.
No matter how legitimate the criticism may be, it seems like conservatives have been misled by their own sources. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), in a July 25 Fox News op-ed, claimed that “75% of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours.” This comes from a survey of small businesses by the U.S Chamber of Commerce and cited by many conservative sources, like the Washington Examiner.
Politifact was not convinced:
The chamber told us executives were first asked whether the employer mandate would affect them:
“As a result of the health care law, the employer mandate will require employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer health coverage to all full-time employees and their dependents or face a penalty. The law defines a full-time employee as someone who works 30 hours per week and the penalty is based on the number of full-time employees. Will you be impacted by the employer mandate?”
Just 17 percent of the small business executives said yes. So less than one in five businesses that participated in the survey said that the employer mandate would even affect them.
Those 17 percent were then asked how they planned to respond. They could select as many answers as they felt applied to them:
“Please indicate how your business will react to this new mandate. Please select all that apply.
a. Reduce hiring to avoid surpassing the 50 full-time equivalent employees (24 percent)
b. Cut back hours to reduce the number of full-time employees (27 percent)
c. Stop providing employee health insurance
d. Replace full-time employees with part-time workers (23 percent)
e. None of the above”
The chamber published responses for answers A, B and D — the responses cited by theWashington Examiner and Rubio. It has not provided responses for answers C and E.
So, the only way to reach 75 percent is to not only ignore the majority of executives who didn’t answer the question, but also to fold those who said they would “reduce hiring” with those who planned to cut hours or replace workers.
It turns out, after a closer look at the survey, only “5 to 9 percent” of small businesses say they would cut back hours or replace full-time workers in response to the healthcare law. The Chamber of Commerce cherry-picked the results of their own survey to make it seem like small business owners are concerned about the employer mandate, even though the majority of small businesses already provide health benefits – 87 percent for businesses with 25 to 49 employees, and 94 percent for businesses with 50 to 199 employees.
This does not mean that there are no businesses with concerns about the mandate. Politifact cites a May Gallup poll that “showed that 41 percent have held off on plans to hire new employees, 19 percent have reduced workers, and 18 percent have reduced employees’ hours to part time.” This is largely because many small business owners are not sure how Obamacare will affect them, and the confusing rhetoric on both sides makes it difficult to separate facts from misinformation.
I honestly do not blame Rubio for repeating the false narrative made by the Chamber of Commerce. It is no secret that he wholeheartedly opposes Obamacare and has even threatened to shut down the government if it is not defunded. The truth of the matter is that when an organization is known for being firmly against a particular policy, they will do what they can to sway public opinion, even purposely fabricate an interpretation of statistics. But remember, partisans refuse to allow facts (or fact-checkers) get in the way of ideology. Even though his claim was rated “Pants on Fire,” I expect Rubio to shrug it off as liberal bias and continue to believe what he wants to believe.