The employer mandate delay will have little effect on Obamacare

By Linda J. Blumberg and John Holahan and Judy Feder :: February 11th, 2014





The Obama administration yesterday announced further delays in the so-called “employer-mandate.” This provision of the Affordable Care Act would assess penalties on large employers not providing adequate, affordable insurance coverage to their workers if any of their full-time employees obtained subsidized coverage through a Marketplace. Some political controversy surrounded last summer’s first employer mandate delay, but, as we wrote then, such a move is unlikely to have much impact on the implementation of Obamacare.

In fact, the penalties  are neither a driving force behind expanding coverage nor an important source of federal revenue. This excerpt is from our July post:

As we have explained elsewhere, there is very little in the ACA that changes the incentives facing employers that already offer coverage to their workers, and fully 96 percent of employers with 50 or more workers already offer coverage today. Competition for labor, the fact that most employees get greater value from the tax exclusion for employer sponsored insurance than they would from exchange-based subsidies, and the introduction of a requirement for individuals to obtain coverage or pay a penalty themselves, are the major factors that will keep the lion’s share of employers continuing to do just what they do today with no requirements in place to do so.

Lessons from the Massachusetts health reform experience are instructive here as well. The Massachusetts law has substantially lower penalties for non-offering employers than does the ACA – the Massachusetts Fair Share Requirement is a maximum of $295 per worker, compared to a potential ACA maximum of $2,000 per worker. However, nominal as those assessments are, employer-sponsored insurance actually increased post-reform, as our analyses done prior to implementation predicted. This increase in employer based coverage was the consequence of individuals facing a new requirement to obtain insurance coverage and deciding their preferred source of coverage if they had to get it was their employer.

Throughout the development and the implementation of the ACA, there has been more worry than warranted that employers will drop insurance coverage. The current furor over the delay of the employer penalties appears to be more of the same. With or without the penalties, most people will still get coverage through their employers; the fundamental structure of the law will remain intact.

Office picture from Shutterstock

Leave a Comment