Op-Ed: Another Tough Day for the Prophets of Economic Doom
It’s been six years ago to the day since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. This anniversary serves as another reminder that the law is working and that the prophets of doom were wrong... again.
For years now Republicans have claimed almost daily that economic disaster was just around the corner. We were headed toward hyperinflation, the collapse of the dollar and the loss of jobs. But as I noted in a column a year ago, real economic events have proven the Republicans wrong time and time again.
By almost any measure, the state of our economy is stronger than when President Obama took office. The economy has grown in 24 of the last 26 quarters. The unemployment rate has been cut in half to 4.9 percent, down from a high of 10 percent in October 2009.
Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, Republicans have predicted doom and wasted time by voting upwards of 60 times to repeal it. They have wailed over and over again that the ACA would be a “job killer.” That it would cause full-time workers to be cut back to part-time jobs. That small businesses would be devastated. And that health care spending would go through the roof and bankrupt us all. Once again, the prophets of doom were wrong. Not just wrong. But spectacularly wrong.
Let’s start with their prediction that the ACA would be a job killer, and let’s highlight the facts.
Starting with the month the ACA became law in 2010, businesses have created14.3 million jobs over 72 consecutive months of private-sector job growth. That’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation on record.
How about small businesses? Job growth has also been strong for them, as they have added jobs every single quarter since the ACA became law - creating 7.8 million jobs.
The gloomy predictions that the ACA would push Americans into part-time work has also proven to be piffle. Since 2010, 12.6 million full-time workers have been added while the level of part-time employment has remained the same.
And the predictions of soaring costs have been just as wrongheaded. The ACA has been successful in “bending the cost curve.” Private health insurance spending per enrollee had been going up an average of almost 7 percent per year from 2000 to 2005. Since its enactment, these costs have leveled with increases on average of only around 1 percent each year.
In fact, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, repealing the ACA would increase the nation’s budget deficit by an estimated $137 billion over a 10-year period.
And to be fair, the success of the ACA can’t simply be measured in economic terms. The ACA has also saved lives.
When the rate of uninsured was near its peak, a study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that “nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance.” Then after the ACA was passed, the rate of uninsured dropped like a stone. Twenty million people have gained quality health insurance coverage. The percentage of the population without health insurance is now under 10 percent. That is the first time this has happened in our nation’s history. Access to affordable health care saves lives.
And driving this improvement are the ACA’s common-sense fixes to what was a broken system. An immensely popular change is that young people are now able to stay on their parents’ plan. Another critical improvement is that people who have what the insurance industry calls a “pre-existing condition” no longer have to worry that they will be left high and dry, without insurance and without recourse.
The ACA also helps people change jobs without worrying about being left uninsured. The familiar problem of sticking with a job that was a bad fit - just because it provided benefits - is no longer an epidemic. Families who simply couldn’t get health insurance through their employer can now get it. And for those who can’t afford it, there are subsidies to help them get the coverage they need.
Overall, the ACA is one of the most successful and important pieces of legislation in a generation. It’s time for the prophets of doom to acknowledge the error of their ways and admit that they were wrong. Let’s celebrate the success of the Affordable Care Act and build on this accomplishment, not try and tear it down.