About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
Job-based insurance may be on way out
Of all the changes contained in the health care legislation that passed Sunday night, the one that intrigues me the most is the one that requires most employers to pay a fee if they do not provide health insurance to their workers. If those workers get a government subsidy when they buy insurance on their own, their employer has to pay a fee of $2,000 per worker.
The fee would not apply to the first 30 workers, so a company that employed 100 people and did not sponsor a health insurance plan would pay $140,000 (100 minus 30 times $2,000).
My guess is employers are looking at this provision today and saying, “I’ll take that deal.” For many, the cost of the fee will be less than the cost of insurance. Here at The Free Lance-Star, the company pays a minimum of $4,400 per employee, per year for coverage. The cost is higher when the employee buys a family plan.
Given these numbers, I can see that employers might offer a health insurance voucher or payment to employees to stay competitive with other businesses. But with health care costs increasing, wouldn’t employers jump at the chance to get out of the middle and let employees buy their own insurance?
Today about 60 percent of nonelderly Americans get their health insurance through their job or a family member’s job. With this law, it seems that we’re seeing the beginning of the end of this employer-based system. That may or may not be a good thing, but it bears notice as a historic change.