Judging by his State of the Union address and the confidence with which Democrats have tried to focus the national political conversation on income inequality, it was obvious that the administration had concluded that ObamaCare was no longer a political problem. But today’s report from the Congressional Budget Office predicting that the health-care law would result in the loss of more than two million full-time jobs shows just how unfounded that conclusion has turned out to be. The report, which provides the most detailed analysis of the impact of ObamaCare on the economy, said the law would reduce hours worked by Americans across the board.
As the New York Times reports:
The budget office analysis found that much of the law’s effect comes from reducing the need for people to take a full-time job just to get insurance coverage, and from the premium subsidies effectively bolstering household income.
But it will also have an effect on businesses, the report said, including by encouraging them to reduce employee hours to avoid the so-called “employer mandate.”
The report also chipped away at the administration’s main argument for retaining the controversial law: the vast expansion of benefits for the poor and those unable to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions:
The budget office also estimated that about a million fewer Americans than expected will receive health insurance coverage in 2014 through the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, primarily because of the troubled rollout of the exchanges. It also revised its estimates of the number of people receiving coverage through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan coverage, lowering it by about 1 million.
While the White House is attempting to spin the numbers to prove that the job losses are meaningless, the political impact of this report is clear: ObamaCare will remain a major, if not the single most important, political issue in the 2014 midterm elections. Moreover, since the CBO says most of the damage won’t be fully felt until after 2016, the idea that the health-care law will be widely accepted once implemented is also a pipe dream of the Democrats who passed it without a single Republican vote. That means Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, dreaming of the White House must understand that they will also be faced with the absolute necessity of defending the law in the next presidential election cycle.
The CBO report isn’t all bad news for Democrats as it predicts lowered deficits in the years to come. But try as they might, the job loss numbers are a body blow to the president’s party heading into a midterm election cycle in which the odds were already stacked against them. With ObamaCare enrollment numbers significantly below where they must be for the system to pay for itself and state exchanges burdened by “glitches” that also imperil the law’s success, the outlook for the misnamed Affordable Care Act is grim.
Since the law’s passage in 2010 critics feared the employer mandate would result in massive cuts in full-time employees as small companies reduced workers to part-time status in order to avoid the costs and the regulatory headaches of complying with the statute. It has also led to the decisions of major companies such as Target, Trader Joe’s, and Home Depot to reduce insurance coverage for part-time employees pushing them into the exchanges to purchase ObamaCare.
All this adds up to a situation in which the number of ObamaCare losers is starting to outnumber the total number of Americans who benefit from the law. The assumption all along by both hopeful Democrats and worried Republicans was that once it was in place the law’s distribution of benefits would make it impossible to significantly amend or repeal it. But with each passing month as the disastrous rollout of the law continues, and more details of its catastrophic effects on the economy become apparent, it becomes clearer by the day that the problems it is creating for millions of Americans who have seen their existing plans canceled and replaced with more expensive coverage or are faced with the loss of full-time employment cannot be ignored.
Democrats who plan to face the voters in November by trying to change the subject to discussions of the minimum wage or vague talk about inequality must think again. Ignoring the devastating impact of ObamaCare on an economy that is still not fully recovered from 2008 is not a winning strategy. Faced with voters who know from their own experience they are paying a heavy price in jobs, increased health-care costs, and poorer coverage, Democrats are going to have to do better than to tell the people that ObamaCare is off-limits for discussion or debate.