Las Vegas Review-Journal Hijacks CBO Report To Mislead Readers On Obamacare
Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER
The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a misleading editorial on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including tired falsehoods about enrollment numbers and new misinformation that negatively framed Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers that actually show Americans will have more job choice thanks to the ACA.
In a February 5 editorial the Review-Journal revived the claim that the ACA will not meet enrollment goals and offered a CBO report showing Americans will work less as they rely less on their jobs for insurance as proof the ACA is failing:
If the governor is legitimately shocked at this development, he shouldn't be. Healthcare.gov, the national exchange, has been a disaster since its Oct. 1 launch, and it is well off the enrollment pace required to sign up 7 million Americans by April 1. Even if the national exchange reached its goal, Obamacare won't be viable because younger, healthier people aren't signing up in sufficient numbers to subsidize the costs of older, sicker enrollees. At least 40 percent of enrollees must be younger and healthier for the law to pencil out.
The House is still trying to roll back this nightmare, proposing bills that address the law's most significant flaws, such as its various incentives for part-time work. On Tuesday, a Congressional Budget Office report projected the ACA would reduce the number of full-time workers in the United States by 2 million people by 2017 and 2.3 million by 2021 -- nearly three times the CBO's previous projected labor force impact of 800,000. Obamacare subsidies are partly to blame, the CBO reported, because they are "encouraging part-year workers to delay returning to work in order to retain their insurance subsidies." That's another way of saying Americans can't afford mandate-heavy, ACA-compliant policies that President Barack Obama promised would be cheaper.
The Review-Journal's assertion that ACA's success rests on enrolling 7 million by April 1 misrepresents what that number actually means. The CBO estimated 7 million people could sign up through the 2014 enrollment period, but that number is not critical to success of the law. The ACA has seen success in increasing sign-up rates as fixes to the system progress and enrollment deadlines draw closer. Furthermore, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, young enrollees are participating enough to support the law. Even in Kaiser's worst-case scenario -- young enrollment freezing at the already-surpassed 25% of enrollees -- the ACA would be stable and provide a profit to insurers.
Beyond attacking enrollment, the Review-Journal misrepresented figures from the CBO that predict the impact the ACA will have on the American labor force. The recently released report focused on work force participation and measures the impact the law has on incentives to work. Far from presenting the law as a failure, the CBO report actually found that a reduction in the supply of labor is beneficial. As the Los Angeles Times explained, the number of jobs could actually increase:
The CBO projects that the act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There's a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.
As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."
With more security in their health coverage, people will be freed from "job lock" -- the term Georgetown University's Sabrina Corlette gives to employees forced to work to keep insurance. She explained that provisions like a ban on discrimination of pre-existing conditions allow people to be more confident in their insurance allowing them to work less or search for a better job. She continued:
The CBO's analysis focuses primarily on the incentives people - particularly lower-income people - will have to work less, because the lower their income, the higher their premium subsidy. Thus, older workers might retire earlier than they otherwise would; parents may decide to spend more time with their children. But there are other, less tangible incentives worth considering - incentives that could spark innovation and job creation.