WASHINGTON — The chairman of the chief political arm for Senate Democrats admitted Wednesday that small-business owners in Colorado find the new federal health care law bedeviling.
“There’s a lot of confusion,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said in an interview Wednesday, “and we need to do a better job of explaining the tax credits, the individual mandate, and (other parts of the law).”
Bennet’s remarks are consistent with public polling on the March 2010 Affordability Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” among both small-business owners and the public at large. The law takes effect in 2014.
As TCO reported Tuesday, the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center said 52 percent of businesses in the state that agreed to participate in a survey last month said they don’t know about Colorado’s health exchanges; 62 percent did not know if the law would affect their costs.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey April 30 that also found widespread confusion about Obamacare. Forty two percent of Americans were unaware it was the law of the land, including 12 percent who said Congress had repealed it. About half of the public said they don’t possess sufficient information about the health-care law to understand how it will affect their family. Among the uninsured and poor, the figures were higher.
The opinions of small-business owners have emerged as a politically-charged issue because both Republicans and Democrats look to small businesses as job creators in a weak if brightening economy. Small businesses will also feel the impact of the regulations that the Affordable Care Act imposes on them. Indeed, the National Federation of Independent Business was the chief litigant in the June 2012 Supreme Court case.
“A lot of people don’t know much about the law. But we want to emphasize the damage that the legislation does to businesses,” Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Tuesday in an interview.
Confusion about the law has put Senate Democrats on defense, as they need to defend a law they voted for unanimously in December 2009. Yet they have emphasized the popular provisions in the law, such as preventing health insurers from charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions.
Moran said the spike in press coverage about small business’ anxiety toward Obamacare have not helped Republican senate candidates for the 2014 elections yet.
Yet former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty said he expects confusion about the law to redound to the GOP’s benefit. He predicted Sen. Mark Udall, who is up for re-election in 2014 and a close ally of Bennet’s, will retreat from his vocal defense of the law.
“If this plays out, the only thing he can do is seek significant reform of Obamacare and change its most onerous provisions … Supporting it will be a nearly indefensible position,” McNulty said.
Udall declined two extended interview requests off the Senate floor to discuss the matter Wednesday, although he mentioned his seminars to help educate businesses about the law while walking to his Senate office. Udall’s aides did not return an email message for comment.