A recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the Affordable Care Act will likely result in two million fewer full-time positions as fewer Americans decide to work.
The study asserted that due to the expansion of insurance coverage, particularly to those who have pre-existing conditions, those holding a job for the exclusive purpose of accessing health care will likely quit. They expect a reduction in hours worked as current employees decide to leave the work force or cut back the number of hours they work. All told, the CBO estimates that the reduced number of hours worked would be equivalent to 2.5 million fewer full-time positions.
"2.5 million Jobs" grabbed the headlines, but that misses the point. The study is correct in assuming that some Americans forced to work for health care benefits will quit, but that doesn't mean that the work will no longer need to be done. If the study assumed employers wouldn't make up the reduced number of hours by hiring new employees then it is simply wrong.
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Of course there will be costs and dislocations associated with implementing the new law. Several small business owners I talked to have reduced employee hours and shifted to part-time or temporary help to avoid the "employer mandate."
Notwithstanding the short-term costs, longer-term, one of the most important consequences overlooked by the study is that by disentangling health-care benefits from the employer-employee relationship, entrepreneurship will flourish. In an economy where risk-taking is rewarded, encouraging bright, entrepreneurial-minded large company employees to leave the comforts of their nine-to-five jobs to start businesses is critical to America's long-term success.
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As a nation, we have gone a long way to cushioning the entrepreneurial plunge. The notion of borrowing against your house, maxing out credit cards and loans from friends and family is daunting enough. The prospect of ending up in debtors' prison would force any would-be business owner to hide under their bed. That's the reason why America has among the laxest bankruptcy laws.
Under the Affordable Care Act, no longer will budding business leaders have to worry about losing health-care benefits when striking out on their own. Business start-ups account for the single highest source of new jobs. Under the Affordable Care Act, we can now tell would-be entrepreneurs "we've got you covered."
(Read more: Aetna may pull out of Obamacare: CEO Mark Bertolini)
— By Jack Ablin
Jack Ablin is chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. Follow him on Twitter @j_ablin.