A recent report brings good news about health care reform. The Affordable Care Act is helping break what's called "job lock," which was a major problem in our old health system. "Job lock" refers to how millions of Americans were stuck in jobs they otherwise didn't want because they needed health insurance. Many were unable to take other jobs, start businesses, retire early or do something else they really wanted to do only because the risk of losing insurance was too high.
The result was a hardening of the arteries of the old system. If a daughter wanted to care for her elderly parent, a grandmother wanted to care for her grandchild while her son went to college, a carpenter wanted to retire at 62 instead of 65, an engineer wanted to turn a brainstorm into a business, or an aging literature major wanted to finally write a novel -- they couldn't do it. Such mobility was a pipe dream.
Now these people get to make choices to improve their quality of life without fear of losing coverage. And those who no longer want jobs will make way for others who need them. And all thanks to Obamacare.
The good news comes in the Budget and Economic Outlook (2014 through 2024) recently released by the Congressional Budget Office. You can be forgiven for missing the news, because the moment the report was released, opponents pounced on it with the absurd claim that the ACA was destroying jobs. More disappointing was the botched way most in the media reported the news. The Denver Post, for example, ran a headline announcing "law costs jobs."
Such is the nature of the overly politicized health care debate in America, and it's a darn shame. Good news gets drowned out in the Washington echo chamber.
There was a time when folks across the political spectrum agreed that ending job lock was a good idea. In 2008, the conservative Heritage Foundation praised a health proposal of then-presidential candidate John McCain because "individuals would no longer feel obligated to stay with their employers simply because they need to keep their employer-based health insurance."
In 2009, Rep. Paul Ryan said:
(T)he key question that ought to be addressed in any health care reform legislation, is are we going to continue job lock, or are we going to allow individuals more choice and portability to fit the 21st century workforce?
Conservatives no doubt disapprove of how the Affordable Care Act breaks job lock. And they point out that some of this added choice comes because of subsidies low-income workers will receive. But none of that makes ending job lock suddenly a bad thing. The same exact result cannot be a virtue if conservatives are responsible for it, but a job killer if President Obama is.
Nor is it right to call it "increasing choice" when it affects the middle class but "discouraging work" when it affects low-income families.
A 2008 Harvard study estimated that 11 million people were caught in job lock. That's 11 million people like the woman mentioned in an email we received from one Colorado employer:
(P)eople who have wished to retire or voluntarily leave the workforce are able to do so because they will have access to health care. An example of this is a 62-year-old woman on my staff who has wanted to retire, could afford to do so, but was uninsurable because she is a cancer survivor.
(T)he exodus of those people will open up positions that the currently unemployed folks can fill.
The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act has increased the choices Americans have regarding health care and employment. And as any good conservative knows, when you increase choice, you improve lives.