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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

 
If people who were just working to keep health insurance don't have to work anymore, that's a GOOD thing

by David Atkins

So the CBO released a report suggesting that the ACA would, among other impacts, likely cause over 2 million workers to leave the workforce. The simple reason for that is that there are millions of Americans, many nearing Medicare eligibility, who would prefer not to work but have to in order to keep their outrageously overpriced health insurance. Meanwhile, there are millions of Americans who are out of work and desperately need jobs.

In any sane world, allowing the people who don't want to be working anymore just to pad the health insurance companies' bottom lines to retire while opening up millions of jobs for new job seekers would be considered a good thing. In any sane world, giving workers more leverage over employers in a labor market definitively tilted toward management would be a good thing.

But not in Republican land or in a media world that spends so little time covering labor and basic economics that the CBO's identification of a loss of 2 million "workers" was interpreted for several hours in many headlines as a loss of 2 million "jobs."

There have been many excellent pushbacks on this front day, including from Greg Sargent, Karoli, Media Matters and others. Perhaps the best and most comprehensive response comes from Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times, only a small portion of which I excerpt here:

The Congressional Budget Office is out with its latest report on the Affordable Care Act, and here are a few bottom lines:
— The ACA is cheaper than it expected.
— It will "markedly increase" the number of Americans with health insurance.
— The risk-adjustment provisions, which Congressional Republicans want to overturn as a "bailout" of the insurance industry, will actually turn a profit to the U.S. Treasury.
Given all this, why are the first news headlines on the CBO report depicting it as calling Obamacare a job killer?
You can chalk up some of that to the crudity of headline-writing, and some to basic innumeracy in the press. But it's important to examine what the CBO actually says about the ACA's impact on the labor market. (You can find it at pages 117-127, excerpted here.)
RELATED: Yes, men should pay for pregnancy coverage, and here's why
The CBO projects that the act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There's a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.
As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."
The ACA will reduce the total hours worked by about 1.5% to 2% in 2017 to 2024, the CBO forecasts, "almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive." That translates into about 2.5 million full-time equivalents by 2024 — not the number of workers, because some will reduce their number of hours worked rather than leaving the workforce entirely.
Is it any wonder that the ACA continues to have negative approval ratings when its most successful and laudable accomplishments are attacked by the sociopaths in the GOP and misunderstood by much of the press?


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