Health Care Reform Is Not a Jobs Stimulus Plan

President Obama plugged a $950 billion health care reform plan yesterday in advance of Thursday's health care summit with Republicans. Marc Ambinder has the rundown. There are plenty of good reasons to be critical of the health care plan: you can say it doesn't do enough to dramatically reform a broken system; or it doesn't do enough to ease the government's entitlement commitment over the next generation; or perhaps that it doesn't spend enough to reduce the burden of exponentially inflating health care premiums. Those sound like reasonable critiques that I'd anticipated discussing today.
One not-terribly-reasonable critique of Obama's new health care reform plan that I did not anticipate discussing today is that it "loses" its "jobs component." Health care reform lost a jobs component? Health care reform had a jobs component? I'm confused.

MSNBC's John Schoen writes:

When President Barack Obama was pushing his plans for health care reform last summer and fall, he said change was needed to put the nation's economy on a firmer footing.

But with his new compromise proposal Monday aimed at forcing a congressional vote on the issue, Obama appears to be making a pure political gambit with little explicit reference to the economic struggles still afflicting millions of jobless workers.

... Obama no longer can argue that the health care proposal will create jobs or at least remove an impediment to job creation, some analysts said.

I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to make of this. When was health care reform ever plugged as a job stimulus bill? A respectable job stimulus bill would go into effect immediately. Most of the major provisions from health care reform don't kick for another four years.

Maybe Schoen is trying to say he'd like Obama to drop health care to focus on job growth (even as a jobs bill is working its way through the Hill's digestive tract). Now, it's reasonable to say the president should have passed a larger, or more targeted, stimulus before going on to enact his campaign agenda. It's also reasonable to ask whether a second, distinct jobs bill might pull down unemployment faster. But it is not reasonable to say Obama should have suspended his campaign agenda indefinitely in January 2009 and put a hold on all reforms -- in health care, and financial regulation, and carbon emissions, and immigration -- unless they have an immediate and tangible impact on job creation. Beneath the rubble of the recession is a country with all of its old flaws and imperfections, and they need our attention, too.

On a separate, slightly related note, health care inflation over the last decade has corresponded with remarkable job growth in the health care industry, as one of my favorite jobs graphs ever does a good job of showing. The Council of Economic Advisers predicts that in the next decade, four million jobs will be created in the health care industry -- more than in any other industry, and twice the jobs created in education and financial services combined. It's reasonable to argue that an economy overly reliant on health service jobs is undesirable, that it bleeds employers and employees of income, and crowds out investments in other sectors. But one natural result of health care taking over 17 percent of the economy and growing fast is that it happens to create quite a lot of work.
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