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Thursday, February 6, 2014

CBO on ACA: Devil is in the Details

On Tuesday, while driving between meetings, my favorite talk radio host shared shocking details from a new report – Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, is going to result in a loss of 2 million jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Well, I thought, it's going to be a long day.

Later I learned that this reporter was sharing details from the latest Budget and Economic Outlook Report from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO is an independent agency tasked with providing fiscal analysis for Congress with the intent of informing the budget-making process. Periodically, they release these reports which provide a 10 year forecast demonstrating the economic impact of many policies. Since 2010, they have included analysis on the impact of the ACA.

Needless to say, I was anxious to dig into this nearly 200 page behemoth and figure out what was going on. What I read in this report turned out to be great news. The report does not say that the economy will lose 2 million jobs. It says that, by making it easier to access affordable, high quality health insurance, more than 2 million people can make the choice to leave their job and pursue their passions, spend time with their families, start businesses, or find better jobs.

For those of us that have been following and championing the ACA, this isn't actually new information. Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report, entitled The Affordable Care Act: Improving Incentives for Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment, which estimated that we could see as many as 1.5 million entrepreneurial spirits leave their jobs to become their own boss in 2014 alone!

Both reports highlight the same important fact: Because of the promise made by the ACA, that we can all access good health care, people will have the freedom to do what they want without fear of medical emergency and financial ruin.

My father, sister, and brother-in-law are all self-employed. Even my grandmother owned a small craft shop for the better part of my 26 years. While they were all brave (and maybe a little stubborn) enough to pursue these passions before the ACA, it has not been without sacrifice. After my self-employed and uninsured father had emergency eye surgery in 1992, my family filed bankruptcy as a result of unpaid medical bills. If the ACA had been around then, things would have been much easier for us and my dad certainly would have avoided a lot of sleepless nights worrying about keeping his business or providing for my sister and I.

I was shocked when I heard that radio report, but – as always – the devil was in the details. Except the devil isn't really a devil at all. The bottom line is that the ACA presents a new opportunity: an opportunity for people like my dad, to become their own boss; for someone who has put in their years and saved their pennies to retire early; or for a new parent to work part time so they can spend more time watching their child learn and grow. The CBO report means that what happened in my family, and millions like us, doesn't have to happen anymore – and that is why I will continue to be a proud champion of the ACA.

– By Kathy Waligora

Kathy Waligora is the Manager of Health Reform Initiatives at EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition).

See the 2013 ACA Self-Employment Infographic in PDF.


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