In making their argument about the alleged budget-busting and job-killing effects of health care reform, the Republicans relied largely on data supplied to them by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The Republican study accuses the health care law of causing larger deficits and fewer jobs.
But the Republican study has been criticized, too. It relies on somewhat dated figures from early last year. It cites a report by the National Federation of Independent Business that was released 1½ years before the health care bill was completed. In addition, it assigns some fixed costs to health care reform that would have to be paid whether we had the new law or not.
Another GOP indictment is that the reform law will kill jobs. Micah Wieinberg, a health care expert at the New America Foundation, says, “The claim has no justification.”
Amitabh Chandra, a professor of public policy at Harvard, says, “The effect on employment is probably zero, or close to it.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the amount of work done might decline by about a half a percent. But it’s not for the reason the Republican study suggests. The decline will mostly occur because fewer people will seek jobs, not because there will be fewer jobs. For example, employees in their 70s and 80s who are still working so they can afford to pay health insurance premiums might opt to retire, like their friends. Isn’t that a good thing? That’s not “job-killing.”
Nobel economist Paul Krugman wrote of the GOP study: “Republicans seemed to have lost interest in the war on terror and have shifted focus to the war on arithmetic.”
It turns out that the biggest problem with the Republican resolution is that, were it to become law, it would in fact make matters worse. The same day the Republicans published their study, the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner reporting that the health care repeal act would actually increase the national debt.
A more detailed report was promised to follow at the end of the month. But the conclusion is devastating to the House Republican’s attempt to repeal Obamacare. The CBO wrote: “Over the 2012-2021 period, the effect of H.R. 2 on federal deficits as a result of changes in direct spending and revenues is likely to be an increase in the vicinity of $230 billion.”
According to the CBO, Obamacare will likely reduce deficits, while the Republican H.R. 2 repeal bill would increase them.
The letter to Boehner continued: “CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably continue to increase budget deficits relative to those under current law in subsequent decades.” It would get worse after 2021.
Finally, the CBO letter concluded: “Under H.R. 2, about 32 million fewer non-elderly people would have health insurance in 2019.”
Obamacare will require many adjustments. It would be foolhardy, however, to go back to a system in which 50 million Americans were without health coverage, in which we spent twice as much per capita as the Europeans and health care costs were rising at double the rate of inflation.
The Republicans shouldn’t try to repeal Obamacare until they come up with something better.
• Mickey McGuire, a retired high school social studies teacher, is among a select group of local residents with columns in the Tracy Press.