As House Republicans prepare Tuesday to take up a bill repealing the sweeping health care overhaul, they face an awkward fact-check permeating the news wires that effectively dismantles their central argument against the reforms.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) argued in a recent report that the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, enacted last March, will cause "significant job losses" in the United States -- up to 650,000, he said -- citing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The claim is so important to the Republican Party's opposition strategy that they've titled the bill, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."
But as Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reported Tuesday for The Associated Press. the basis for their figure is "shaky" at best. He called the Republican estimate "a story of how statistics get used and abused in Washington."
"What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small," Alonso-Zaldivar wrote. "Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job."
In other words, the CBO said the impact of the reforms would have a "small" impact on the labor force by diminishing the amount of work people have to do in order to obtain health care. Republican leaders instead appropriated those figures to claim the impending loss of 650,000 jobs.
Two economists at nonpartisan research institutions corroborated AP's critique: Paul Van de Water at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Paul Fronstin at the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
In an e-mail to Raw Story, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel defended the repeal plan.
"Washington Democrats have a talking point about pre-existing conditions -- not a solution. The new health care law raises taxes on the chronically ill and its high-risk pools are so badly under-funded that nearly half of the states have opted out," Steel said. "We need to repeal the law and start over with solutions that help states expand their high-risk pools and lower costs for all Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions."
The Republican repeal measure would add roughly $230 billion to the deficit by 2021 and leave about 54 million nonelderly Americans uninsured by 2019, according to the CBO.
Further, a full 129 million Americans under 65 have medical conditions the insurance industry would use to deny affordable coverage, according to an administration report released Tuesday morning. Democrats' health reforms ended the practice of denying insurance over pre-existing conditions, with the final patient protections due to take effect in 2014. Were the laws repealed, many of those individuals would have immense difficulty obtaining needed care.
Faulty logic has been a regular facet of the nation's bitter health care debate. The award-winning group PolitiFact gave their last two "Lie of the Year" awards to Republicans for false claims about the bill: 2009's being Sarah Palin's "death panels" fiction and 2010's being the GOP warnings of a "government takeover" of healthcare.
With Republicans controlling the House by a 241-173 margin, the repeal measure is expected to pass comfortably. But it's likely to be a nonstarter in the Democratic-led Senate, and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.
Democrats view the upcoming debate as an opportunity to educate the public about the law's benefits, which include a ban on insurers discriminating against sick people and closing the Medicare "doughnut" hole.
This article has been updated to include a late comment from Speaker Boehner's office.