KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CBO: Health Law’s Increased Access To Health Care Could Lead Many To Quit Work, Reduce Hours

The Congressional Budget Office report, released Tuesday, which updated estimates regarding how many people will be able to gain health insurance without necessarily having a job, became an immediate political flashpoint and reignited the political debate surrounding the health law.  

The New York Times: Health Care Law Projected To Cut The Labor Force
A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday predicted that the Affordable Care Act would shrink the work force by the equivalent of more than two million full-time positions and recharged the political debate over the health care law, providing Republican opponents fresh lines of attack and putting Democrats on the defensive. The nonpartisan budget office’s analysis, part of a regular update to its budget projections, was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated. Congressional Republican leaders called the findings “devastating,” “terrible” and proof that the health care law was a job killer (Lowrey and Weisman, 2/4).

NPR: More Access To Health Care Means Millions Can Quit Or Cut Hours
What might have been a routine update on the state of the federal budget Tuesday instead became the newest front in the ongoing political war over President Obama's signature health care law. At issue: a revised estimate about how many people would voluntarily leave the workforce because they can get health care without necessarily holding down a job (Date, 2/4).

Los Angeles Times: Affordable Care Act Will Prompt Some To Work Less, Report Says
President Obama's healthcare law will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by about 13 million this year and 25 million once it is fully phased in, but will prompt some people to work less because of the availability of insurance subsidies, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. The latest projections by the nonpartisan budget analysts inspired new talking points for both sides in the deeply polarized debate over the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare (Lauter, 2/4).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Will Prompt Over 2 Million To Quit Jobs Or Cut Hours, A CBO Report Says
More than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday. The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revived a fierce debate about the impact President Obama’s signature health-care program will have on the U.S. economy (Goldfarb and Goldstein, 2/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law To Cut Into Labor Force
The agency also said the rough launch of the health law's online insurance portals shrunk its estimates of the number of people who will get coverage in 2014. It said six million people would obtain private coverage through the exchanges and eight million people would sign up for Medicaid, compared with its earlier estimates of seven million and nine million, respectively. The report, part of the budget office's annual economic and budgetary outlook, provides the agency's most detailed analysis yet of the ways in which the law is expected to change incentives in the workplace as it takes full effect. The report indicates that, in effect, some workers will either leave the workforce entirely or cut back on hours because the law lets them get coverage on their own without regard to their medical history, in some cases with a subsidy (Radnofsky and Paletta, 2/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Law Will Mean Fewer People On The Job
Republican lawmakers seized on the report as major new evidence of what they consider the failures of Obama’s overhaul, the huge change in U.S. health coverage that they’re trying to overturn and planning to use as a main argument against Democrats in November’s midterm elections (2/4).

USA Today: Health Law Could Mean Fewer Full-Time Workers, CBO Says
Workers eligible to buy cheaper health insurance or receive financial incentives under the Affordable Care Act may choose to work fewer hours, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday. Those choices, the report said, may cut the number of full-time workers by 2.3 million people by 2021. CBO originally had estimated that 800,000 people may make those choices (Kennedy, 2/4).

Bloomberg: Obamacare To Cut Hours Of Work By 2017 CBO Estimates
Obamacare will reduce the hours Americans work by the equivalent of 2 million full-time jobs in 2017, the Congressional Budget Office said, sparking renewed Republican criticism of the law and a fresh defense from the White House. The total number of hours worked will fall about 1.5 percent to 2 percent from 2017 to 2024 as a result of the health-care overhaul, the CBO said yesterday in a report (Wayne, 2/5).

CBS News: Obamacare Will Shrink Workforce By 2 Million, Report Says
Given the new incentives offered by the Affordable Care Act, people will choose to work less in the coming years, nonpartisan budget analysts say -- shrinking the workforce by the equivalent of 2 million full-time workers by 2017 and by 2.5 million by 2024. Republicans, already intent on making the controversial health care law a 2014 campaign issue, seized on the new data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to argue the law is hurting the economy. The White House, however, defended the law, charging the GOP with spinning the facts (Condon, 2/4).

CNN: Obamacare May Prompt People To Work Less
Many workers may opt to work less to retain their eligibility for Medicaid or federal subsidies under Obamacare, a new report has found. The Affordable Care Act could reduce the labor force by the equivalent of 2.5 million workers in 2024, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's annual outlook. That doesn't mean employers will start swinging the ax or even that that many jobs will be lost, CBO says. Rather, more people will likely opt to reduce their hours, or leave the workforce entirely, so they stay under the income caps for Medicaid and federal subsidies (Luhby, 2/4).

Fox News: ObamaCare Could Lead To Loss Of Nearly 2.3 Million US Jobs, Report Says
The long-term effect of ObamaCare on the U.S. economy was rewritten Tuesday with the Congressional Budget Office issuing a revised projection that nearly 2.5 million workers could opt out of full-time jobs over the next 10 years -- allowing employers to wipe 2.3 million full-time jobs off the books. Budget experts say that because ObamaCare offers an insurance alternative to employer provided coverage, many Americans who hold full-time jobs may decide to work part-time -- or not at all -- and get their coverage from the exchanges. Following the release of the report, House Speaker John Boehner said the report showed how “the middle class is getting squeezed in this economy” (2/4).

McClatchy: CBO: Obamacare Would Lead Employees To Work Less
A government analysis sparked fierce debate Tuesday, projecting that the Affordable Care Act will lead American workers to voluntarily put in fewer hours on the job, a total that would add up to the equivalent of as many as 2.5 million jobs over the next decade. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it expected total employment and compensation in the whole economy to increase over the next 10 years. But “that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA.,” it said in a report (Hall, Clark and Pugh, 2/4). 

The CBO updated other projections, including health care enrollment numbers, the financial impact of the overhaul's risk corridor provision and Medicare growth -    

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Web Site Woes Will Reduce Health Care Enrollment
Website woes have largely cleared up, but the nonpartisan analysts said Tuesday they expect 1 million fewer people to sign up through the new insurance exchanges, for a new total of 6 million in 2014. They predict enrollment will pick up and top 20 million in 2016. CBO also revised its Medicaid projection down by 1 million, for a new total of 8 million (2/4).

CQ HealthBeat: CBO: Botched Health Law Rollout Means Fewer Insured Americans In 2014
The Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday that 1 million fewer people will receive health insurance through the law’s exchanges in 2014 than previously projected, mostly due to the troubled federal exchange website rollout (Ethridge, 2/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: CBO: Medicare Growth to Remain ‘Slower Than Usual’
The Congressional Budget Office, in its new economic outlook report released Tuesday, said the recent slowdown in the growth of Medicare costs has been “broad and persistent,” prompting a projection “that growth will be slower than usual for some years to come.” Total spending for Medicare is projected to grow about 6% per year over the next decade because Medicare case loads are expanding as baby boomers become eligible for benefits at age 65. In 2013 there were about 51 million Medicare beneficiaries and that number is expected to climb to 71 million by 2024 (Corbett Dooren, 2/4).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: CBO Reports That Health Law Provision Called ‘Bailout’ By GOP Will Raise $8B
New findings from the Congressional Budget Office may make it harder for Republicans to portray a provision in the health law designed to limit insurers' losses and gains as a 'bailout' for the industry (Carey, 2/5).

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare ‘Bailout’ Actually Saves $8 Billion: CBO
Many congressional Republicans believe that they should not raise the nation’s borrowing limit unless President Obama agrees to give them something in return. Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or a repeal of the so-called risk corridors in the Affordable Care Act are the two items topping their potential wish list. The CBO report might shift the balance between those options because it projects that the risk corridor program, which Republicans have insistently characterized as a bailout of the insurance industry, will probably generate a net profit for the federal government (Garver, 2/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Five Takeaways On New Health-Care Projections
There is plenty of material in today’s Congressional Budget Office report about the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Here are five key takeaways (Radnofsky, 2/4).

News outlets also covered the White House reaction to the CBO numbers -

Politico: White House Pushes Back Hard Amid CBO Fallout
The White House pushed back hard Tuesday on the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that the Affordable Care Act will cut labor supply by the equivalent of two million full-time jobs, contending that the law is a good thing because it gives Americans “choice” on how much they’ll work. While the CBO “consistently does outstanding work,” Council of Economic Advisers chairman Jason Furman said at the White House press briefing, its findings in Tuesday’s report can be “subject to misinterpretation” (Epstein, 2/4).

The Hill: WH Not Worried About O-Care Enrollment
The White House on Tuesday brushed aside questions about a Congressional Budget Office report lowering estimates for first-year enrollment in the president's signature health care law, saying they remained “confident we're going to have a substantial number of Americans covered.” The nonpartisan CBO downgraded its initial estimate of 7 million first-year enrollees in the president's signature health care law to 6 million, likely thanks to the botched early rollout of the law (Sink, 2/4).

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