‘Romneycare’ Didn’t Kill Jobs, And Neither Will ‘Obamacare’: Study

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Most of its major provisions haven’t been implemented yet, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from attacking the Affordable Care Act as a job killer. Most broadly, they claim without evidence that coming rules that will apply to employers are creating regulatory uncertainty and dissuading businesses from hiring.

To gauge the likely, actual impact of the law, the Urban Institute prepared a study on the economic impacts of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care reforms, which were the inspiration for “Obamacare.”

Its conclusion? “Massachusetts achieved its goal of near-universal health insurance coverage under its 2006 health reform initiative, with no indication of negative job consequences relative to other states.”The two laws aren’t identical. But they share so much in common that researchers concluded, based on their findings in Massachusetts, that “national health reform will not lead to job loss or stymied economic growth.”

The Urban Institute compared economic indicators in Massachusetts with data from other states and across the whole country. Across the board they found Massachusetts performed comparably to similar states and the nation. Though the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 harmed all states, Massachusetts turned out to be no worse off than its peers, despite implementing health care reform along the way.

“[T]he trend in Massachusetts’ private-sector employment to working age population ratio is generally similar to trends in the four comparison states and the rest of the nation — falling 4.4 percentage points in Massachusetts, 3.9 percentage points in the comparison states, and 4.8 percentage points in the rest of the nation,” researchers conclude. “The consistency of the trend suggests that the health reform law in Massachusetts had little negative impact on private sector employment in the state.”

Broad trends in Massachusetts aren’t masking more specific negative consequences. The data’s consistency holds when you control for firm size. Moreover, “when examining worker and job characteristics, there is continued consistency in the trends for Massachusetts,the comparison states, and the rest of the nation. Reflecting the effects of the recession, both full-time and part-time employment dropped by similar levels in Massachusetts,the four comparison states, and the rest of the nation between 2006 and 2010. The trends in employment for younger workers and workers with no more than a high school education were also quite similar in Massachusetts and other states over the 2006 to 2010 period. There was no evidence of a disproportionate loss of employment overall, by type of job, or by type of worker, in Massachusetts under health reform relative to the rest of the nation.”

Though Romney himself enacted the test policy in Massachusetts, and though his successful law suggests the country can absorb the ACA without suffering job losses, it hasn’t stopped him from attacking the health care law as, yes, a job killer.

Last week, after the House passed symbolic legislation to repeal one of the taxes in the health care law, Romney released a statement: “We can’t afford job-killing policies in Obamacare.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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