Even though it’s been delayed for a year, Obamacare’s employer mandate is still giving business owners cold sweats.
North Georgia Staffing, a family-owned boutique staffing agency, currently employs 18 full-time workers and 400 temporary workers. Next year it plans to add another 200 temps.
The problem facing Debbie and Larry Underkoffler, the owners, is whether to extend the same insurance coverage to all workers or pay a $2,000 per employee fine, they told Fox News.
The projected fine would be $400,000, while giving all workers an Obamacare-approved plan would top $2 million.
The Underkofflers’ case is particularly galling because prior to any government mandate they already provide their workers – both full-timers and temps – with access to health insurance.
Yet under Obamacare’s system of mandates and penalties, it makes better financial sense for the Underkofflers to dump their temporary workers on Georgia’s federally-run exchange and pare back benefits for the full-timers. In both cases, workers are projected to pay more for health insurance and get less.
All this makes perfect sense, however, if you agree with Obamacare’s primary goal of increasing the number of people with health insurance by regulatory fiat.
North Georgia Staffing, supporters would argue, is laudable but an outlier. Most temporary workers don’t have health insurance. The way to (somewhat) pay for the cost of covering them is to either (1) make employers eat the price increase, or (2) use the fines when they refuse to (partially) fund the federal subsidies temps will use to buy insurance on an exchange. If that means that some owners and workers will pay more for less, it’s a worthy sacrifice to increase access to health insurance for others.
That’s the baseline policy argument for Obamacare’s employer mandate. No doubt it doesn’t poll as well as “If you like your doctor and insurance you can keep it,” but at least it’s the truth.