Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Bondi's health care claim ruled false

Some Florida public officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, have softened their tone on the federal health care law since the U.S. Supreme Court declared it constitutional and President Barack Obama was re-elected.

But don't count Attorney General Pam Bondi among them.

In remarks at a Florida Chamber of Commerce event on Nov. 28, Bondi said the health care law is already hurting business.

"Unfortunately, national studies are already showing the negative effects that the health care law is having on businesses and our economy. Businesses across the country are raising their prices in order to compensate for their added costs due to Obama's health care plan. If they aren't raising prices, they're cutting jobs as a result of the added cost, both of which hurt our economy. According to a Mercer survey, more than 60 percent of employers expect the federal health care plan to increase their health costs. Twenty percent of those employers are bracing for at least a 5 percent increase in costs."

This comment caught our attention because added costs for business under the health care law do not start until 2014. So why would they be raising prices and cutting jobs now?

First, a bit of background: In 2014, the law's major requirements take effect. Individuals will have to have health insurance or pay a penalty. And large employers will have to offer health insurance or pay a penalty. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt, and large employers that already offer health insurance are not affected.

Translation: Most large employers who don't offer employees health insurance will be subject to the penalty.

But again, those penalties haven't started yet.

Bondi's office referred us to the Mercer study she mentioned, so we contacted Mercer, a health care consulting company.

As Bondi said, the survey of 1,215 businesses found that 61 percent of employers expected cost increases.

A small segment — 20 percent of employers — said they expected increased costs of 5 percent or more. So another way to read the results is that 51 percent of employers, including 10 percent who expect no increase, expected their costs to go up 4 percent or less.

Mercer told us their surveys show employers have actually lowered their estimates of the cost impact as 2014 gets closer.

Finally, we should point out that the Mercer survey asked employers to predict what they thought would happen in 2014; it did not ask employers about how the law is affecting their actions today. And it did not show that businesses are raising their prices or laying off workers, as Bondi suggested.

Bondi's office also pointed us to news stories about how businesses are reacting to the health care law, reports from conservative think tanks and opinion pieces from conservative outlets that oppose the law.

The most relevant and persuasive evidence that the law would raise prices or cause layoffs were news stories about how the law would affect the restaurant industry. Some restaurants said they would shift their workforce from full-timers to part-timers to try to avoid paying penalties.

We found this evidence interesting, but anecdotal, and not definitive.

We don't doubt there's anxiety among some businesses over what's to come under the health care law, and maybe some are considering raising prices or cutting jobs. But Bondi didn't talk about planning, she talked about what's occurring right now. We found no studies already showing the negative effects or evidence that businesses are cutting jobs or raising prices now. We rate Bondi's statement False.

This report has been edited for print. To see the full version and other fact-checks, go to www.politifact.com/florida

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