Should the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate be repealed?

by Brian Wolfman

Yes, according to this study issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Urban Institute. To oversimplify, the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate requires employers with over 50 employees to provide their full-time employees with reasonably priced health insurance that meets the ACA's minimum requirements (or to pay penalties if they don't comply with the mandate). Because of opposition from employers and implementation concerns, the employer mandate's effective date (originally January 1, 2014) was pushed back (and then pushed back even further for employers with between 50 and 100 employees).

The Urban Institute study says that two key attributes of the ACA are essential to its success both fiscally and in providing coverage to millions more Americans : the ACA's individual mandate (which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012) and its massive Medicaid expansion (which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012 on a state-by-state basis only to the extent that individual states opt in). But the employer mandate, the study concludes, will provide health-care coverage to only a relatively small number of Americans who are currently uninsured while creating significant opposition to the law from businesses. So, the employer mandate should be repealed, with people who would be covered by the employer mandate obtaining insurance through the ACA's other mechanisms: the individual mandate or, where applicable, medicaid. The report also analyzes whether, and to what degree, the employer mandate will cause employers to lay off low-wage workers or shift them to non-full-time positions to avoid the penalties associated with the mandate.