Sunday, November 3, 2013

Negative Unintended Consequences

The case against Obamacare is straightforward. For many employers, the cost of providing health insurance to mainly low-income workers would be huge. Logically, many firms would try to evade the expense. There are two ways of doing this. First, businesses with fewer than 50 full-time workers are exempt from the insurance requirement (the “employer mandate”). So, don’t hire that 50th worker. The second way is to make workers part time by cutting their weekly hours to less than 30. That’s Obamacare’s threshold for full-time workers.
Consider an example. A firm has 49 full-time workers. None receives employer-paid health insurance. Each has an annual wage of $30,000. The company adds another worker. Its wage bill totals $1.5 million (50 workers times $30,000). But it must now offer health coverage; in 2011, the average cost of a policy for a single person was about $5,000. For 50 workers, that’s an additional $250,000 (50 workers times $5,000). If the firm had a pretax profit of $250,000, its profits would be wiped out. There’s a powerful incentive to avoid Obamacare, either by not hiring or by pushing full-time workers under the 30-hour cap.

This issue of "what is full time" seems like a no solution problem.  It hurts everyone when businesses can't grow, and it hurts workers to have to work multiple part time jobs.  More meddling, more negative unintended consequences.  This is one of the things humans cannot engineer.

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