Recently, the Congressional Budget Office released an updated report, which included data on the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, several conservative commentators and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor fired off tweets, Cantor claiming that “millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs” because of the Affordable Care Act.” So will this come to pass?
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In short: no.
First off, where did that 2 million number come from? From this line in the report: “CBO’s updated estimate of the decrease in hours worked translates to a reduction in full-time-equivalent employment of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024, compared with what would have occurred in the absence of the ACA.”
But does that mean that the Affordable Care Act is going to kill 2 million jobs?
“Actually, as our editorial on the subject explained, the C.B.O. predicted a reduction in the number of full-time workers,” writes Juliet Lapidos at The New York Times. “That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it’s not. ‘Job-killing’ implies layoffs; whereas the report found that many workers would choose to leave their positions — because they no longer have to depend on their employers for health insurance.”
In other words, because workers will be able to buy their own insurance, they won’t be forced to keep jobs that they want to quit. Instead, they can work fewer hours, or opt out of the labor force, for example, by retiring.
The labor force reduction is not because of layoffs. It’s because workers choose not to supply labor. The CBO says this outright:
“The reduction in full-time-equivalent employment that CBO expects will arise from the ACA includes some people choosing not to work at all and other people choosing to work fewer hours than they would have in the absence of the law; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. Because some people will reduce the amount of hours they work rather than stopping work altogether, the number who will choose to leave employment because of the ACA in 2024 is likely to be substantially less than 2.5 million.”
So put your mind at ease. If ACA causes anyone to work fewer hours or not work at all, it will be by choice.
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