Monday, October 4, 2010

Tim Pawlenty and Reading Comprehension

Today, our intrepid 2012 presidential hopeful tweeted a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal that reports on St Paul-based 3M's decision to restructure its retiree health benefits in response to the new health care landscape as Obamacare goes into effect. He describes is as "more proof Obamacare is a failure." I'm guessing he (or his flunky that runs the twitter account) didn't actually read the article. For example:

"As you know, the recently enacted health care reform law has fundamentally changed the health care insurance market," the memo said. "Health care options in the marketplace have improved, and readily available individual insurance plans in the Medicare marketplace provide benefits more tailored to retirees' personal needs often at lower costs than what they pay for retiree medical coverage through 3M.

So, to recap, Obamacare is making private health insurance plans better and cheaper than those offered through 3M. As a result, 3M is going to phase out their own program that has been made superfluous. That sounds to me like smashing success, not failure. Then there's this:

Democrats that crafted the legislation say they tried to incentivize companies to keep their retiree coverage intact, especially until 2014. The law creates a $5 billion fund for employers and unions to offset the cost of retiree health benefits. More than 2,000 entities, including many large public companies, have already been approved to submit claims for such reimbursement. 3M did not apply.

"We would certainly welcome their application," said Reid Cherlin, a spokesman for the White House.

If 3M had wanted, they could have gotten monetary assistance through the ACA to keep retiree benefits. They didn't bother, because the private insurance market was becoming more efficient and affordable. Perhaps next time T-Paw can try actually reading the article and having some understanding of health care policy.

As a side note, wonks can also rejoice, since there's bipartisan agreement (among policy types, not necessarily pols) that severing the link between employers and insurance is a critical step to getting our health care system into some semblance of order. 3M is demonstrating that Obamacare is one small step in that direction.

EDIT: Kevin Drum caught whiff of this article and had much the same argument I did.

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