A screengrab from an anti-Obamacare web ad by the Koch-affiliated group Generation Opportunity.

Koch Industries and its ‘Obamacare’ subsidies

When we talk about beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act, we tend to focus on certain groups of people: the uninsured who can now get coverage, seniors who can now better afford prescription medication, young adults who can now stay on their family plans; small businesses receiving tax breaks to cover employees; consumers benefiting from new protections related to pre-existing conditions, annual and lifetime caps, medical-loss ratio, etc.
But there are large businesses that benefit, too. In fact, the AP’s Charles Babington reported yesterday on some notable enterprises have received “Obamacare” subsidies.
Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from “Obamacare” even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. This condemn-while-benefiting strategy angers Democrats, who see some of their top congressional candidates struggling against waves of anti-Obamacare ads partly funded by these companies.
Among the corporations is a familiar Democratic nemesis, Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
There was a temporary program within the ACA called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, intended to help businesses cover health care cost for retired employees who are not yet covered by Medicare. Among others, Koch Industries applied for subsidies under the program and received $1.4 million in taxpayer money.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) seemed only too eager to highlight these details on the chamber floor this week, wondering aloud why “it’s OK for Koch Industries to save money through Obamacare,” even as the company’s principal owners help finance a political movement against the health care law.
“If the Affordable Care Act is so awful,” Reid added, “why did Koch Industries use it to their advantage?”
That need not be a rhetorical question.
It’s worth emphasizing that there’s nothing untoward about Koch Industries seeking and receiving taxpayer money through the ACA – the funds were available for businesses that applied and Koch Industries appears to have played by the rules. Sure, congressional Republicans condemned the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program at the time as a “bailout,” but no one took their complaints seriously anyway.
The trouble, however, is political. The Koch brothers have helped finance an extraordinary, relentless attack on the health care reform law, including an operation that not only condemns the new American system, but encourages American consumers to deliberately avoid it.
In other words, the Kochs are financing Americans for Prosperity, telling the public not to seek Obamacare subsidies, even after Koch Industries benefited from Obamacare subsidies.
And in case that weren’t quite brazen enough, Babington added this tidbit of news:
The Kochs and their allies show little sheepishness about denouncing a federal health law that benefited them. In fact, the Koch-related group FreedomPartners is spending more than $1 million on ads criticizing Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado and Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, Democrats running in tight Senate races.
Their alleged wrongdoing? Accepting campaign donations from health companies that benefit from “Obamacare.”
By this reasoning, the Kochs’ political operation should probably go after any Republican that received campaign support from Koch Industries.
Fair is fair, right?