The conciseness of headlines, both in newspapers and on websites, tends to be fatal to nuance and context — and that’s true of the news that the Affordable Care Act may lead to nationwide job losses. This reads like bad news and it has already been cited by Republicans as another excuse to kill what they call Obamacare.
But the story is more complicated than that. While it has been reported — or misreported, some now say — in terms of jobs, what the respected, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office actually reported was a decrease in full-time equivalent employment, a figure it put at 2.3 million by 2021 and 2.5 million by 2024.
In short, it’s not that the Affordable Care Act is killing huge numbers of jobs. The jobs may remain. It’s about choices people are likely to make about the jobs in response to the incentives in the law.
Some Americans, mostly in lower-paying jobs, may choose to reduce their hours to part-time or not work at all to keep their income low enough to stay eligible for federal health care subsidies or Medicaid. That may still be objectionable to conservatives who don’t want to subsidize anyone, but that is different from calling Obamacare a proven job killer.
It can be looked at this way: When Social Security was introduced, was that a job killer because older people decided to retire with dignity rather than work until they dropped, as they had formerly done with no retirement benefit? Of course not.
On the positive side, the report indicates that the health care law will boost the demand for goods and services, at least in the short term. Additionally, the 2014 premiums Americans are paying on the health insurance exchanges are coming in at 15 percent lower than expected. But the only concise thing that can be said accurately for the moment is that the law is a work in progress.