On Wednesday, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Doug Elmendorf refuted the claim that the Affordable Care Act is a job killer — a misleading takeaway from his agency’s new report that is being touted by Obamacare critics.
Testifying before the House Budget Committee on the CBO’s newly released economic projections for the next decade, Elmendorf addressed the report’s finding that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the labor participation rate and the total number of hours worked by an equivalent of 2 million jobs in 2017. According to Elmendorf, that statistic is being taken out of context to suggest that Obamacare will eliminate jobs.
“The reason we don’t use the term ‘lost jobs’ is there is a critical difference between people who like to work and can’t find a job — or have a job that’s lost for reasons beyond their control — and people who choose not to work,” he explained. “If someone comes up to you and says, ‘The boss says I’m being laid off because we don’t have enough business to pay,’ any other person feels bad about that and we sympathize for them having lost their job. If someone says, ‘I decided to retire or stay home and spend more time with my family and spend more time doing my hobby,’ they don’t feel bad about it — they feel good about it. And we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.”
Even Budget Committee Chairman and former GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan conceded that point in part. “Just to understand, it is not that employers are laying people off,” said Ryan at the beginning of the hearing.
In fact, the CBO report explicitly states that the estimated reduction in labor “stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor” and that “there is no compelling evidence that part-time employment has increased as a result of ACA.” Those notions are further supported by economic data on full- and part-time employment trends over the last several years. Simply put, the report finds that Obamacare will reduce the number of people who are forced to work a job merely for the sake of health insurance.
Elmendorf also noted that the ACA is actually expected to boost the economy in the near-term by making health insurance and medical care affordable for the poorest Americans, giving them the freedom to spend money in other areas of the economy. “On balance, CBO estimates that the ACA will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years,” states the report.