WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Monday shot back at critics who claim Obamacare is leading to higher healthcare costs, slower job growth and rising numbers of part-time workers, saying the latest economic statistics show none of those effects.
Nearly one-third of the sharp rise in part-time workers seen in employment numbers for June was due to federal employee furloughs caused by automated spending cuts, rather than employers shifting to part-time workers due to concern about President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, a senior administration official said.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, also predicted that July job numbers due on Friday would show a similar increase in part-time workers due largely to the furlough of 650,000 Defense Department employees.
Federal furloughs are the result of automated across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, which went into effect earlier this year after Republicans and Democrats in Congress failed to agree on a deficit-reduction package.
Republicans and other critics of Obamacare have cited the jump in part-time workers as evidence that employers have been cutting back on hours to avoid higher healthcare costs under Obamacare, which will require businesses with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance in 2015.
The White House on Monday released data that it said shows no evidence that the law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has accelerated healthcare costs, reduced full-time employment or punished small businesses including restaurants.
The data showed that personal expenditures on healthcare goods and services grew at 1.1 percent during the year ending in May, the lowest rate in 50 years measured by the inflation gauge known as personal consumption expenditures.
Alan Krueger, chairman of White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a government blog posting that slower healthcare cost growth could remain for some time.
"The fact that the slowdown in cost growth reflects changes in both prices and utilization of medical care -- and that the slowdown is apparent in many different aspects of the healthcare system -- further suggests that structural changes are under way," Krueger said.
Figures released by the White House also showed slower growth in health insurance costs for small employers and a faster rate of job growth among businesses with low rates of employer healthcare coverage. Healthcare reform opponents have pointed to both groups as being hard hit by higher costs and slower job growth as a result of Obamacare.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Ken Wills)
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