POLITICS
02/05/2014 05:30 pm ET | Updated Feb 07, 2014

CBO Director: Actually, Obamacare Will Reduce Unemployment

President Obama's health care reform law isn't going to kill 2.5 million jobs, Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee on Wednesday.

One day after multiple media outlets misinterpreted a CBO report on Obamacare, Elmendorf clarified the CBO's position during the hearing. The federal agency, Elmendorf said, had found Obamacare “spurs employment and would reduce unemployment over the next few years."

“When you boost demand for labor in this kind of economy, you actually reduce the unemployment rate, because those people who are looking for work can find more work," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) asked Elmendorf.

“Yes, that’s right,” Elmendorf responded.

A number of new organizations wrongly interpreted the agency's report Wednesday as saying that Obamacare "killed" 2.5 million jobs. In reality, the agency found Obamacare could shrink the workforce by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers over the next 10 years.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Obamacare could cause a reduction in employment because it makes health care more accessible, allowing Americans to quit jobs they only keep for the health care coverage. That's not killing jobs. It's giving workers the ability to quit jobs they don't want.

Representative Van Hollen called the media out for misreading the report.

"As the media has themselves confessed, they bought -- hook, line and sinker -- some of the talking points from our Republicans, and unfortunately misrepresentations go around the world three times before the truth begins to catch up," Van Hollen said.

As pointed out by Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, it's extremely difficult to accurately predict the long-term employment consequences of Obamacare, a nearly unprecedented expansion of the country's health care industry:

"The body of research on how health insurance expansion affects labor force participation is far from complete, ecoomists [sic] say, mostly because there aren't that many health insurance expansions to study. Researchers don't know for certain how many people keep their jobs because they provide health insurance -- or how many would leave their jobs if they had access to affordable health coverage elsewhere."

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