White House On Obamacare Report: If There Were No Medicare, 95-Year-Olds Would Work More

A senior administration official dismisses Republican gloating over a Congressional Budget Office report, saying it doesn’t prove the Affordable Care Act hurts the job market.

Mike Segar / Reuters / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The White House responded aggressively Tuesday in the hours after a Congressional Budget Office report on the effects of Obamacare on the economy led to gloating from Republicans.

In a statement and conference call featuring top administration officials, the White House tried to beat back an emerging narrative that the CBO report supported claims made by health care reform critics. The CBO report says the Affordable Care Act could lead to a reduction of 2 million full-time workers between 2017 and 2024. The CBO says the reduction would not come via fewer available full-time jobs (as critics of the law have alleged) but “almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.”

On a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official said the change in worker behavior due to health care access reforms found in the Affordable Care Act was not a surprise.

“To put that in context, I have no doubt that if we eliminated Social Security and eliminated Medicare, there would be many 95-year-olds that would choose to work more hours than they’re working today just so they could survive, feed themselves and have health insurance,” the official said.

The CBO’s projected reduction in full-time workers, then, “shouldn’t be a significant cause for surprise and it reflects the fact that workers have a new set of options and are making the best choices that they can choose to make for themselves given those options,” the official said.

At the White House briefing Tuesday, White House Council of Economic Advisors chair Jason Furman repeated the Medicare line, and added “I don’t think anyone would say that’s a compelling argument for [eliminating Medicare.]

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