Republican leaders in the House are trying to repeal health care reform by asserting that it is a "job killer" and will cause the deficit to rise. According to an array of independent assessments, the GOP is wrong on both counts.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) introduced a bill aimed at killing key provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconstruction Act of 2010. Cantor's 2-page bill says, "This act may be cited as the 'Repealing the Job-Killing Care Law Act.'
But giving the bill a catchy name doesn't mean the description is accurate.
"House Republicans claim that the legislation (the Affordable Care Act) is a 'job-killer' imply that health care reform measures will be a major drag on the economy because they will allegedly increase employers' costs," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted. "But these claims are not supported by the evidence, and they are at odds with leading non-partisan assessments of how health care reform legislation will affect the economy and labor markets."
But an assessment by the Congressional Budget Office concludes that employers with 50 or more employees – approximately 70 percent of the total insurance market – will see their premiums remain the same or decrease by up to three percent in 2016. Smaller employers may see increases in the one percent to two percent range, according to the CBO.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Paul Van de Water observed, "Politico quotes incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan … as stating that the health reform law 'is full of gimmicks that more than erase the false claim of deficit reduction' made by the Congressional Budget Office, which has estimated that the law will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over 2010-2019 and by some $1.3 trillion over the following decade. But the 'gimmicks' he cites are nothing of the sort, as my colleague Jim Horney and I explained in a report we issued when these and similar misleading charges began surfacing nearly a year ago.
"According to Politico, Rep. Ryan claimed that the Affordable Care Act uses revenues from Social Security and premiums from a new long-term care insurance to offset the cost of health reform. In reality, health reform reduces the deficit even without counting these revenues. As our report explained:
"CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation have concluded that the health reform legislation will reduce employer spending on health insurance, in part because the new excise tax on high-cost insurance plans will lead employers to shift some employee compensation from health insurance to cash wages. Workers will pay Social Security payroll contributions and income taxes on the additional wages."
FactCheck.org asks, rhetorically: So what about the "budget-busting" label that House Republicans are also trying to apply?
It answered its own question: "The Congressional Budget Office officially scored the new law as self-financing, projecting that it would actually reduce the deficit over the first 10 years – and beyond. And so it should surprise nobody that CBO said Jan. 6 that repealing the new law, as Republicans propose, would increase the deficit. CBO's latest figures project that repealing the new law will increase the deficit by a total of $230 billion over the next 10 years (through fiscal year 2021). So keeping it in place would help the budget, not bust it."
Republicans pushing for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and Democrats championing continued tax breaks for the middle class evidently were not as concerned about the deficit when they joined hands last month to extend expiring tax breaks for everyone.
The $860 billion measure signed by President Obama, among other things, extends unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks and extends the Bush tax cuts for another two years. The tax breaks will cost $544.3 billion over the next two years, including $81.5 billion for the top 2 percent of taxpayers.
Largely missing in the debate over whether the new health care law is a "job-killer" is the amount of deaths that will be caused if Republicans are successful in repealing what they derisively call ObamaCare.
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. noted last April, "Estimating the number of premature deaths attributable to lack of insurance presents methodological challenges, but some research indicates that as many as 44,500 deaths per year in the United States are linked to lack of insurance."
However, it is not methodologically challenging to measure the disparity between those who have health insurance and those who don't. According to Mathematica:
Uninsured adults are less likely than insured adults to receive preventive services or screenings, such as mammograms, pap smears, or prostate screening. In turn, inadequate prevention and screening increases the likelihood of preventable illness, missed diagnoses, and delays in treatment.
Uninsured children are 70 percent less likely than insured children to receive medical care for common childhood conditions, such as sore throat, or for emergencies, such as a ruptured appendix.
At-risk adults without insurance have higher rates of stroke and greater risks of death than at-risk adults with insurance.
When hospitalized, uninsured children are at greater risk of dying than children with insurance.
The question lawmakers should be weighing is not whether the health care bill is "job-killing," as Republicans claim. The real question is: What about the needless suffering and deaths that would occur without health care insurance being expanded? You can't put a price tag on that.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.