The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report today which suggests greater job losses associated with President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. (ObamaCare) Previous CBO studies had estimated that approximately 800,000 people would give up full-time work due to ObamaCare by the year 2021. The new report issued today stated that the number of workers lost could be as high as 2.3 million, and that number would be reached by 2017. The net effect on the economy would be to reduce the total number of hours worked by as much as two percent overall. The report did include the disclaimer that the projections are subject to “substantial uncertainty.” This is due to the fact that the law itself has yet to be fully implemented and there are still many questions about how some parts of it will be implemented in the future.
Republican politicians quickly took hold of the news and renewed their criticisms of President Obama’s signature domestic policy. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement stating that the CBO report validated GOP concerns about the law and its “devastating impact” on jobs. The status of the middle class has been a significant issue of late and Boehner connected today’s report to the continuing problems faced by the middle class. He argued that the economy is still squeezing the middle class and that ObamaCare is making the situation worse for middle class Americans, not better.
Former GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan added his criticism calling ObamaCare “trillions of dollars in empty promises,” and that it is causing far more disruption to the economy than first suggested. He further argued that far more people are being harmed by the implementation of the law than those that are benefiting from it.
Democrats and other supporters of the law pointed out an aspect of the report that they claim Republicans overlook. The report states that the loss of labor participation will be mostly due to workers choosing to work less, not in a reduction of demand for labor or the elimination of jobs. Essentially people will choose to work less on their own because by doing so they can then qualify for subsidies on the government run health insurance exchanges. In essence it becomes more beneficial to them to work less and qualify for the subsidies, than it is to work more and have to pay for coverage entirely on their own. Therefore ObamaCare is not going to eliminate jobs, as Republicans argue, but rather people will simply choose not to work full-time positions. Regardless of the particular interpretation of the report, the latest CBO study does suggest the potential for greater job losses.
The White House seized on this particular aspect of the report as well, claiming that ObamaCare will allow more people the freedom to make their own choices not only in regards to health care, but their employment situation as well. The administration argued that people would no longer feel “forced” to work more in order to provide coverage to their families. They could choose to work less and still obtain the protection that they and their families need.
The CBO report does underscore the uncertainty that surrounds ObamaCare. As previously noted, the report goes out of its way to note that the estimates themselves are very susceptible to as-yet-unknown changes, both to the economy and the law’s implementation. This is one of the arguments that has been used by ObamaCare’s critics since the very beginning. The lack of clarity regarding how and when aspects of the law will be implemented is making it difficult for businesses, and citizens, to know what to expect in the future. Critics then point to the fact that the Obama Administration has already delayed or changed parts of the law that were due to be put in place over the past year.
ObamaCare has been a focal point of debate ever since it was first proposed. Today’s report underscores that it will remain a point of controversy, not only for the remainder of Obama’s presidency, but likely also for years to come. The time scale covered by the new CBO report suggests that job losses associated with ObamaCare could be greater than first thought.
By Christopher V. Spencer