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GOP Leadership Intentionally Distorting “Obamacare”

From Forbes‘ policy analyst Rick Ungar:

As we get ready for this week’s vote to repeal health care reform, it’s a good time to review the substance behind the claims that are at the center of the GOP opposition – opposition that has taken shape in the bill to be introduced this week entitled,  Repealing the Job Killing Health Care Law Act.”

The Republican case is laid out in a document published on January 6th, under the authorship of the House GOP leadership and named, “Obamacare: A budget-busting, job-killing health care law.

It’s an interesting document and well worth reading.

Indeed, the GOP arguments put forth in the study would be truly compelling were it not for the fact that the claims made are so astonishingly dishonest that it takes but a few hours of research to disprove and discredit virtually every substantial claim they make. If you question this, and I know many of you will, I have carefully provided links to each and every document and report the GOP has relied upon so that you may read these authorities for yourself.

Maestro…if you will…a little fact checking music.

The repeal argument kicks off with the following –

The health care law will cause significant job losses for the U.S. economy. The Congressional Budget Office has determined that the law will reduce the “amount of labor used in the economy by … roughly half a percent…, an estimate that adds up to roughly 650,000 jobs lost.”

If this dramatic statement were true, it would be a pretty persuasive condemnation of Obamacare. The thing is, the CBO report in question, issued in August of 2010, most certainly does not predict the loss of 650,000 jobs.

Here’s what the report actually says – “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount—roughly half a percent—primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply (emphasis added).

According to this report, many low-income workers will choose to work less because they will have more money in their pockets due to the expanded availability of Medicare and the subsidies made available by the PPACA to aid in paying for health care insurance premiums.

Others will elect early retirement as a result of the reform law’s requirement that pre-existing conditions be covered by health insurers on the exchanges while limiting the rates private insurance companies can charge older people (pre-Medicare age) who purchase policies on an exchange. With the lifting of the need to remain employed as the only means of gaining health care coverage, a number of older Americans will choose an early retirement.

Here is what the CBO report relied upon by the House leadership specifically said –

The expansion of Medicaid and the availability of subsidies through the exchanges will effectively increase beneficiaries’ financial resources,Those additional resources will encourage some people to work fewer hours or to withdraw from the labor market.

Via Congressional Budget Office, August 2010

Despite this, Speaker Boehner and his crew insist – both in speeches and in writing – on referring to the health care reform law as one that will destroy jobs.

Whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that there is a significant difference between a law that makes less labor available by restricting the job market and one that reduces the amount of labor that workers are willing to supply. Yet, this has not stopped the GOP from twisting the result to meet their argument.

The next claim made by the job-killing faction is that the employer mandates of Obamacare will result in a substantial loss of jobs.

Not so much.

While many experts suggest that there may be a net loss in low-wage jobs -due to the requirement that employers pay a fine if they fail to provide health care coverage to all employees – to say that Obamacare will result in “substantial’ job loss is a pretty dramatic overstatement.

In fact, according to the in depth CBO report on the topic, dated July 14, 2009, the effect of the employee mandates on jobs “would probably be small.”

Don’t trust CBO projections?

I hear you. However, note that it is the House leadership that chooses to rely heavily on them in presenting their arguments in the policy document of Jan. 6. And if you’re wondering why, it’s because they really had nowhere else to go. Even though the House leadership was forced to twist and misconstrue the CBO data to create some basis of an argument, it was more than they could find anywhere else.  There simply are not any unbiased, independent experts who have predicted a mass job loss as a result of health care reform.

To be fair, the GOP report does not focus solely on the CBO. They also rely on a study conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business to support their claim that 1.6 million jobs stand to be lost thanks to Obamcare.

The Jan 6th House GOP Leadership report (cited above) states: A study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the nation’s largest small business association, found that an employer mandate alone could lead to the elimination of 1.6 million jobs between 2009 and 2014, with 66 percent of those coming from small businesses.”

Again, pretty persuasive – or it would be if it were not for the fact that the NFIB report was published in Jan., 2009 – over a year before the passage of Obamacare – and was based on a hypothetical employer mandate that has virtually nothing in common with the law that was actually passed.

By way of example, the employer mandate hypothetical set out in the NFIB study included businesses with 50 or fewer employees – the majority of the businesses which form the NFIB membership. Yet, it turns out that businesses with 50 or fewer employees were exempted from any employer mandate requirements in the actual health care reform law.

O0ps.

Still, the GOP House leadership report indicates that, at the least, the NFIB is an ‘independent’ analysis and should be taken seriously.

I suppose you could consider an organization that has opposed every piece of legislation requiring employers to provide health care coverage to employees to be an ‘independent’ organization. I wouldn’t. And I suppose you could consider the advertisement against health care reform they co-sponsored with the Chamber of Commerce in 2009 to be the act of a neutral player. Again, I wouldn’t.

But, if you are still okay with the idea that the NFIB report is an independent assessment that should be taken as a credible source of analysis, check out page 20 of the NFIB report where you will find the following –

The employer mandate would boost demand for healthcare goods and services, thereby increasing employment in healthcare-related sectors. The number of ambulatory healthcare professionals (physicians, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners) needed will increase by 330,000. An additional 327,000 staff will be required to work in hospitals. Some 157,000 more nurses (net of retirements) will be needed to staff doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, and other provider locations. And payrolls at insurance companies will expand by 76,000 workers.

If my math is correct, that totals 890,000 new jobs created.

The truth is that nobody yet knows whether the health care reform law will result in net job creation or net job loss. My suspicion is that it may be a break-even proposition or, possibly, a net plus considering how many positions are likely to be created in the health care industry.

I also realize that many opponents of Obamacare have a variety of reasons for objecting to the law – many of which can be reasonably argued and defended, unlike the ‘job killing’ pitch chosen by the GOP leadership.

Does it not, therefore, strike you as odd that the Republican leadership would choose to build their sales pitch around an objection that not only cannot be supported by facts, but requires a seriously dishonest portrayal of the situation to back up their claims? They could have gone with unconstitutionality, excessive government spending, the supposed march to socialism, etc. But they have not done this. Instead, they’ve chosen to make a false attempt to tie the law to the one thing that scares people above anything else – the loss of more jobs.

If I were supportive of the new GOP leadership, I do not see how I could avoid being offended.

Fortunately, I’m not particularly supportive of the Republican dream team. But that doesn’t mean that I believe Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and the rest of their crew to be stupid.

Unfortunately, that can only mean that they think that we are.