By Kel Munger
A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 2.5 million workers may choose to cut back their hours or leave work entirely once they no longer need full-time employment to qualify for health insurance. Thus far, the spin has been extremely lopsided.
Health-care deniers made hay of the CBO’s projections, saying the numbers proved that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is bad for the economy. Worse, they were aided by a parroting media that didn’t check the details.
The health-insurance exchanges set up as part of the ACA are making it possible to have comprehensive health care without also having an employer who makes it relatively affordable. That’s not only fantastic for the self-employed and the previously uninsurable, but for Americans who were apparently working more for the coverage than the cash.
As for those who are scaling back or quitting their jobs? It’s unlikely that they’re all lazy goldbrickers. Instead, they’re likely to be people who were putting off retirement because they needed the insurance. Or they might be second-income earners in a young family, now freed of the need to work full-time for the insurance and able to raise children at home. (Family values, right Republicans?) Or what about the people who have long wanted to start their own businesses but couldn’t because they wouldn’t be able to afford coverage?
Those possibilities are every bit as valid as the pundits’ rush to assume the worst—that the Affordable Care Act is killing jobs. The headlines would have us believe those estimated 2.5 million jobs will just disappear once vacated, rather than be filled by people who are seeking work. Instead, it looks like the opposite might happen. Not only will the currently unemployed fill the jobs that people leave—the economy may even experience further stimulation from workers who are no longer shackled to jobs they hate but keep for the benefits.
Of course, that’s the scenario that truly frightens the cheap-labor conservatives who’d rather have sick people go without care than let workers choose when and how they work.
It will take time and research to truly know which explanations are in play, and in what combinations. For now, though, it looks as if the ACA is doing exactly what it’s intended to do: insuring people who need it.