Effects of the Affordable Care Act on Economic Productivity

Casey Mulligan
Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

Casey MulliganCasey Mulligan, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1993. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and Clemson University, and is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research, the George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, and the Population Research Center. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and is the author of three books, including Side Effects: The Economic Consequences of the Health Reform.

In summary, the ACA has three major taxes in it. Two are taxes on full-time employment and the other is a tax on income. They may be implicit, they may be hidden, politicians may not call them taxes, but that’s what they are. Their economic impact on workers varies widely, affecting low-skill workers the most. They create all kinds of productivity problems and will have visible and permanent effects on the economy. I have estimated that employment will be three percent less over the long term because of the ACA, and that national income—or GDP, if you like to think of it that way—will be two percent less. If you look at the productivity costs alone—forgetting the fact that there will be a number of people not working anymore—they come to $6,000 per person who gets health insurance because of the law. And I’m not beginning to count the payments needed for health care providers.

In conclusion, I can make you this promise: If you like your weak economy, you can keep your weak economy.