WASHINGTON (AP) — Several million people will reduce their hours on the job or leave the workforce entirely because of incentives built into President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said this week.
That would mean job losses equal to 2.3 million full-time jobs by 2021, in large part because people would opt to keep their income low to stay eligible for federal health care subsidies or Medicaid, the agency said. It had estimated previously that the law would lead to 800,000 fewer jobs by that year.
The new findings could provide a new political weapon for GOP opponents of the overhaul, though the White House pointed out that the reduction would be due to voluntary steps by workers rather than businesses cutting jobs.
“CBO's findings are not driven by an assumption that (the health care law) will lead employers to eliminate jobs or reduce hours,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
The agency also reduced its estimate of the number of uninsured people who will get coverage through the health care law. The budget experts now say about 2 million fewer people than had been expected will gain coverage this year, partly because of the website problems that prevented people from signing up last fall when new markets for subsidized private insurance opened.
On a positive note, the new estimates also say that the health care law will, in the short run, benefit the economy by boosting demand for goods and services because the lower-income people it helps will have more purchasing power.
And the agency predicted that federal budget deficit would fall to $514 billion this year, down substantially from last year's $680 billion and the lowest by far since Obama took office five years ago.
But the budget experts see the long-term deficit picture worsening by about $100 billion a year through the end of the decade because of slower growth in the economy than they had previously predicted.