Should the Employer Mandate Be Repealed?

 

In last Sunday’s New York Times the columnist Ross Douthat makes an excellent case in “A Hidden Consensus on Health Care”,  that Obamacare’s employer mandate, recently postponed for one year until January 1, 2015, should be repealed altogether.  The reason for delaying its implementation is because of the complexity of the process for the government to gather all the necessary information about a company’s employees and coordinating with IRS tax returns to verify incomes.  This is, of course, a mammoth job.
Furthermore, small and medium sized companies, near the 50 employee cutoff for mandatory coverage, will not have to immediately slow down their growth, in order to avoid the health insurance requirement.  This could help boost the economy in the short turn.
In addition, as Mr. Douthat points out, it is the tax exemption for employer provided health insurance which is the biggest impediment for getting the cost of healthcare under control.  It means that employees are shielded from the true costs involved in receiving care and therefore have little, if any, incentive to hold down the cost of their own care.
If this tax exemption was eliminated, perhaps as part of a broad based tax reform initiative, then employers could still offer an optional health insurance benefit to their employees but it would be taxed as part of their total pay.  This would give employees an interest in holding down the cost of their own insurance.  And they would also have the option to shop around on the private market, perhaps on the new exchanges, for a better deal.
The Employer Mandate is thus altogether a dead weight on our struggling economy.  It’s certainly beneficial to have it postponed for a year.  Let’s go the rest of the way and repeal it altogether!   This would be a significant step towards true healthcare reform!

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