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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

The Facts About the ACA and Jobs

Feb 11, 2014
Speeches
WASHINGTON--Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) addressed the false claims made about the Congressional Budget Office report on the Affordable Care Act.
 

Below is a video and transcript of the speech. 

 

 

All things are subject to interpretation, but as Nietzsche once said whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is often more a function of power and not truth.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report evaluating the economic impacts of the Affordable Care Act. And since then, there are those who have used the power they have to frame a false narrative. Rather than talking about what the report actually says, they’ve spent the last week talking about what they’d like it to say. Their false interpretation: Obamacare Act will cost the American economy 2.5 million jobs.

But the truth is that the much-misrepresented CBO study didn’t say that at all. Because as the Wall Street Journal accurately reported: reducing the total number of hours Americans have to work is very different than eliminating jobs.  

One the reasons we passed the Affordable Care Act in the first place was to fix the pitfalls of this country’s employer-based health care system. Before the ACA, someone with a preexisting condition was often forced to stay in their job to avoid losing their health care coverage. Even if they wanted to leave their job or reduce their hours, to retire early, change careers, or spend more time with their families, they couldn’t. Because doing so would risk their ability to provide affordable health coverage for their families.

What the Affordable Care Act did was right this wrong. By broadening access to health insurance, the ACA has increased personal freedom and market choice. Now Americans can choose jobs based on what they want to be doing instead of staying where they are unhappy just to keep their insurance. The expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the subsidies available in the exchanges will give Americans the flexibility they need to raise their families, not encourage workers to seek less employment, which was one of the most misleading claims made after the report was released.

The idea that hardworking Americans would modify their employment just to be eligible for social safety net programs is both ludicrous and offensive. Nobody wants to live in a situation that makes you eligible for Medicaid or other social safety net programs. But too many hard working Americans are forced to. In Illinois, a family of four must exist on less than $32,500 a year to qualify for these programs. In the Chicago area, the cost of living is high and families struggle to make ends meet. Measures like Medicaid and SNAP are meant to help people lift themselves from poverty. But claiming that poor people want to be poorer to rely more on the government is misguided and just flat out wrong.

I’ve said from the beginning that the ACA is far from perfect and that we should work together to improve it. But arguing that at-risk Americans and low-income Americans will actively choose to work less, reducing their own incomes and jeopardizing their family’s economic future just to “game the system” is not a legitimate issue and speaks volumes about the extreme views that are dividing our government and preventing real reform from occurring.

By focusing on false interpretations, we’re forgetting the economic benefits contained in the law. To quote the CBO report, “if some people seek to work less, other applicants will be readily available to fill those positions and the overall effect on employment will be muted.” At a time when long term unemployment is at its highest since World War II, there are more than enough American workers willing and able to take these jobs. That’s why the Director of the CBO recently testified about the likelihood of the ACA creating jobs, not eliminating them. The report also acknowledged that insurance premiums under the law are 15 percent lower than originally forecast; that the “slowdown in Medicare cost growth” is “broad and persistent”; and that enrollments will increase over time to where they would have been if not for the website’s issues.

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans can now access affordable health insurance. With a focus on personal responsibility, preventive care, consumer protections, and increased choices, the Affordable Care Act has helped empower Americans to lead healthier lives. Let’s put aside the punditry and focus on the facts.