US/World

White House Responds to Obamacare Criticism by Challenging Economic Claims

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The new data challenges criticism launched by opponents of the sweeping healthcare overhaul. Creative Commons

As the October deadline draws closer, the discussion of the economic implications attending the Affordable Care Act becomes more and more animated, with opponents launching excoriating criticism against President Obama's signature health care reform. So far, the opposition has produced a long list of scathing indictments that point to higher healthcare costs, slower job growth and loss of full-time employment opportunities.

But are these claims grounded in facts?

Reuters reports that on Monday, the White House responded to the opposition by dismissing their claims of increased economic burden, saying that that the latest statistics show none of the purported effects.

Many opponents have cited the recent surge in part-time employees as hard evidence that Obamacare's prospective health insurance requirements are deterring employers from hiring full-time workers.

But according to a senior administration official, the statistical spike in part-time employment recorded in June was not caused by corporations scrambling before the looming employer mandate, but rather by federal employee furloughs brought on by this year's automatic spending cuts - the "fiscal cliff" that a gridlocked Congress went over in early January.

The anonymous official also noted that July would most likely show similar figures, as the federal furlough reportedly involves 650,000 Defense Department employees.

In addition, data released on Monday showed that personal expenditures on goods and services related to healthcare grew at a mere 1.1 percent during the first six months of 2013 - the lowest rate in 50 years.

"The fact that the slowdown in cost growth reflects changes in both prices and utilization of medical care - and that the slowdown is apparent in many different aspects of the healthcare system - further suggests that structural changes are under way," said Alan Krueger, chairman of White House Council of Economic Advisers.

David Vandivier wrote on The White House Blog that Obamacare's sweeping healthcare overhaul has so far not restricted full-time hiring, nor has it accelerated growth in health insurance costs for small businesses. Instead, Obamacare is "slowing the growth rate of health care costs for consumers, creating new incentives for providers to raise the quality of care, and adding new transparency and accountability in the insurance marketplace."

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is scheduled to take effect in 2014. The October deadline refers to the date by which the administration must finalize its implementation of the new web-based Exchanges that have been designed to facilitate enrollment for families and individuals.

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