By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., predicted in 2010 that workers would leave their jobs as a result of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Speaking to a group of artists and musicians in her district shortly after the passage of the federal health care law, Pelosi said she and other law supporters saw it as an “entrepreneurial bill” that would allow Americans to leave their jobs to pursue other interests.
“We see it as an entrepreneurial bill, a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have healthcare,” she said. “You won’t have to be job locked.”
Video here, courtesy of CNS News, who reported the comments at the time:
Of course, someone will have to keep working to pay for health insurance subsides to those who have better things to do with their time.
Researchers are now confirming Pelosi’s predictions, but they don’t see it in the same sunny light that she did.
A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research released this week suggests as many as 900,000 Americans may stop working or looking for work once taxpayer-subsidized health insurance becomes available through the new federal exchanges that are part of the health care reform law.
“Our results appear to indicate that the soon-to-be-enacted health-care reform may cause substantial declines in aggregate employment,” concluded researchers Craig Garthwaite, Tal Gross and Matthew Notowidigdo.
Among the consequences: A rise in the national unemployment rate by as much as 0.6 percent and more Americans dropping below the income threshold to qualify for Medicaid, which would further burden an already costly system.
In the paper, the three academics examine the so-called “employment lock” phenomenon. That’s what happens when employees continue working at their current job primarily so they can earn and keep health benefits.
That’s the same “lock” Pelosi was referring to in 2010.
But when the federal health insurance exchanges get off the ground in 2014, fewer individuals will have to rely on employment for their health coverage.
Calls to Pelosi’s office were not immediately returned Friday morning.
Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said he did not understand how Pelosi could see the Affordable Care Act as being “entrepreneurial” when it would encourage people to pursue their hobbies while others funded their health care.
“We all want more time to work on our hobbies, but we shouldn’t have taxpayers subsidizing it,” he said.
But it might not be all bad news. As John Davidson, a health care policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, points out, freedom from the “employment lock” could help some people pursue entrepreneurial goals.
“If they can get health insurance elsewhere, they are likely to engage in economic activity in some other way rather than drop out of the workforce entirely,” he told Watchdog.org on Thursday.
Boehm can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com and on Twitter @EricBoehm87.
Jon Cassidy contributed to this report.