At the time when President Obama signed Obamacare into law — two years ago today — the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that Obamacare would cost 3 million people their employer-sponsored health insurance by the end of this decade. Seemingly in commemoration of Obamacare’s anniversary, the CBO has now released a new report in which it has increased that tally by another 2 million. So now, 5 million people are projected to lose their employer-sponsored insurance, courtesy of Obamacare, by the end of 2019.
Not too comfortingly, the CBO also notes that “there is clearly a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how employers and employees will respond to…that legislation.” “Moreover,” the CBO writes, “models of the health insurance system, including those designed and used by CBO…, are generally based on observed changes in behavior in response to modest changes in incentives, but the legislation enacted in 2010 is sweeping in its nature.” Translation: The CBO really has no idea how many people would lose their employer-sponsored insurance as a result of Obamacare’s 2,700 pages of federal largess.
Trying to project how employers would in fact respond to Obamacare’s “sweeping” changes, the CBO supplemented its baseline scoring with four alternative scenarios based on “alternative assumptions about employers’ behavior.” The CBO reports that, in three of these four scenarios, Obamacare would cost at least twice as many people (at least 10 million) their employer-sponsored insurance as it would under the official projection of 5 million. The CBO says that the range, in fact, spans from 3 million people gaining employer-sponsored insurance to 20 million people losing it.
But at least those 5, or 10, or 20 million people that Obamacare causes to be cut loose from their employers’ insurance rolls would find a soft landing place in the form of Obamacare’s soft despotism, right? Well, not exactly. The CBO writes that, while it “may seem surprising,” a “substantial proportion of workers and their families who would have employment-based health insurance in the absence of the ACA [Obamacare] will not be eligible for Medicaid, CHIP, or significant exchange subsidies” — the major categories of taxpayer-subsidized insurance under Obamacare. How big is this “substantial proportion”? “Forty-nine percent (78 million people),” the CBO writes. (That’s as of 2016.) In other words, it’s probably best not to get dumped from your employer-sponsored plan.
It should be noted that all of the CBO figures estimating the number of people who would lose their employer-sponsored insurance under Obamacare — 5, 10, and 20 million, alike — are net figures. They include the millions of people who would acquire employer-sponsored insurance by the end of the decade but don’t have it now. As such, the gross number of people who would lose their current plans would be far greater than this net tally.
During the Obamacare debate, Obama said, “If you like your current plan, you will be able to keep it. Let me repeat that: if you like your plan, you'll be able to keep it.”
Of course, he didn’t say for how long.