Michele Bachmann’s claim that Obamacare is ‘hurting the bottom line’ of U.S. businesses

 


(Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“55 percent of the American people in a Pew study said that they’re very unhappy with the Affordable Care Act, so they want it changed. That’s really what the result is. They’re not happy with this bill.  They want it changed. In the last two days, we have found that there’s another report that just came out how this is hurting the bottom line of major businesses, from GE to UPS to Dollar General. This is hitting their earnings, because [of] the Affordable Care Act.”

— Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” May 11, 2014

Rep. Bachmann made the comments above while appearing on one of the Sunday morning shows. (We removed the interruptions by her Democratic foil, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.) Bachmann is a Fact Checker favorite, so of course we wanted to see what was behind her data.

The Facts

Bachmann is correct that more people disapprove of the law than approve of it, with the most recent Pew Research Center poll finding that 55 percent disapprove.

But she errs when she asserts that because people are “very unhappy … so they want it changed.” That’s because another recent Pew poll shows that a majority of those ACA opponents – representing 30 percent of the public – wants politicians to do what they can to make the law work as well as possible. Even among Republicans who disliked the law, slightly less than half also had that sentiment.

Here are the poll results:

As for the businesses affected by the law, here Bachmann is seizing on a report that 7 percent of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that have disclosed corporate earnings have mentioned the Affordable Care Act. Yep, we said 7 percent.

Moreover, it turns out that roughly half of those companies are in the health-care industry, including General Electric. GE cited the fact that hospitals and clinics were delaying purchases, and so the performance of its health-care unit was lagging.

But when a company such as UnitedHealth Group says that the law is affecting its profits in part because it now must accept clients with pre-existing conditions, most Americans probably would not weep. Moreover, if millions of previously uninsured people start getting health insurance, those initial negative impacts will be forgotten by investors as insurance company earnings rise. (UnitedHealth’s chief executive said long-term prospects showed “growth opportunities.”)

Bachmann also mentioned UPS and Dollar General, and here she has a slightly stronger case. Both companies blamed the law for increasing costs and overhead, though in the relative scheme of things, it seemed like chump change. (Dollar General said the law would cost two or three cents a share.)

In fact, given that the employer mandate was delayed until 2015, it’s unclear what additional costs these companies face now, except it certainly is a convenient excuse if a company is in danger of missing Wall Street forecasts, as was the case for both companies. (UPS, in fact, set the stage for a major one-time charge to its earnings.)

Bachmann spokesman Dan Kotman said: “USA Today called it a ‘healthy cross section of companies,’ so it’s a matter of interpretation. They also cite an expert who says: ‘Expect more companies to cite the costs of the law in future earnings reports.’ But where the facts are concerned, she said major companies like GE, UPS, and Dollar General have reported that Obamacare is hurting their earnings, which is what the USA Today story says.”

The Pinocchio Test

Bachmann’s remarks are missing important context. She’s right that the law still has high disapproval ratings, though increasingly Americans want to move on from the political battles and try to make the law more effective. As for the impact on corporate bottom lines, a handful of quarterly earnings reports certainly does not suggest much of a trend.

Nevertheless, perhaps we are feeling generous but, for Rep. Bachmann, this is a pretty good score.

One Pinocchio

 


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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.
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