Obamacare’s Other Mandate

Josh Barro suggests scrapping the ACA’s employer mandate:

Over time, the portions of Obamacare that encourage employer provision of health care are likely to be vulnerable. Employers hate the mandate, and argue (correctly) that it discourages job creation. Republicans want to repeal it. And Democrats may not remain totally averse to weakening it, since doing so would move more Americans into portable, government-subsidized coverage — that is, one step closer to the liberal single-payer vision.

If the employer mandate is weakened, Obamacare would become more expensive to taxpayers but less damaging to the economy and job creation. The health care exchanges would become the increasingly dominant venue through which Americans get insurance. Obama’s promise that you can keep that health plan you like would become less and less true. And we would be better off for it.

Even if the employer mandate isn’t weakened, Ezra suspects that few employers will drop coverage:

[T]he fraction of employers actually affected by the health law’s mandate is very small. “You’ve got 5.7 million firms in the U.S.,” says Wharton’s Mark Duggan, who served as the top health economist at White House’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2010. “Only 210,000 have more than 50 employees. So 96 percent of firms aren’t affected. Then if you look among those firms with 50 or more employees, something on the order of 95 percent offer health insurance. So it’s basically 10,000 or so employers who have more than 50 employees and don’t offer coverage.” Those companies probably employ around one percent of American workers.