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Democrats Mount Affordable Care Act Counteroffensive

Democrats waged a counteroffensive Wednesday after the Congressional Budget Office found that the health care overhaul will reduce hours worked and cause a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.5 million in 2024.

At a House Budget Committee hearing where CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said the health insurance subsidies in the Affordable Care Act will create “a disincentive for people to work,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the panel, defended the law.

By providing insurance that’s not tied to a job, it “allows Americans to choose to spend more time with their family or pursue their dreams. And that is not a bad thing; it is a good thing,” he said.

And Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said “The fact that Americans won’t be tied to a job they don’t want or need solely because it is the only way for them to get affordable health care is a feature of Obamacare, not a bug.”

Pascrell cited the hypothetical case of a 60-year old who might decide to retire early due to the health insurance subsidies available under the ACA and thus would “open up a job for someone who is unemployed today.”

But pointing to the long-term decline in the percentage of the population in the labor force, committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, “Washington is making this problem worse” by creating incentives for people to not work. “We need to reverse this decline.”