The Human Tragedy of Obamacare’s Job Losses

by Grace-Marie Turner

The CBO report released this week says finds that the president’s health law creates massive incentives for Americans, particularly those at the lower end of the income scale, to opt out of the work force or to adjust their hours to qualify for big subsidies — to the tune of 2.3 million fewer “full-time-equivalent workers” by 2021​.

In congressional testimony Wednesday, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf acknowledged, under questioning from House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), that “the act creates a disincentive for people to work.”

This cuts through the White House’s claims that Republicans are mischaracterizing the CBO findings. Americans will find that earning more money can cost them thousands of dollars in in-kind benefits and, for many, working more will not be worth the costs of the added payroll taxes and work-related transportation and child-care expenses. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney argued that the subsidies allow people to “pursue their dreams” without the terrible burden of working jobs they may despise, claiming that “individuals will be empowered to make choices about their own lives and livelihoods, like retiring on time rather than working into their elderly years.”

But in what alternative liberal universe can we pay people not to work and expect the economy to thrive? Carney’s argument means that other people who still are working will be paying the bills so these newly “empowered” individuals will be able to enjoy free or heavily subsidized health insurance. And second, what was this about “working into their elderly years”? Medicare already provides health coverage for those over the age of 65 — and Medicaid provides it for many just under that age.

The White House and the liberal media are doing their best to find the pony in this CBO report.  But the American people are going to ridicule their argument that Pajama Boy and others like him should be better off at the expense of the rest of us.

When the CBO talks about the loss of 2.5 million “full-time equivalent jobs,” that means there could be several times that number of workers who will cut back on their hours – and their incomes – in order to qualify for generous health-insurance subsidies. Many millions could be tempted to forgo income — stalling their careers and their chances for advancement – in order to get Obamacare subsidies. The human tragedy of Obamacare, in other words, is enormous.