Among ObamaCare’s few popular features, even among Republicans, is the mandate to cover adult children through age 26 on the insurance plans of their parents. Although sold as a gratuity, somebody must ultimately pay. In a working paper, Gopi Shah Goda and Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford and Monica Farid of Harvard find “evidence that employees who were most affected by the mandate, namely employees at large firms, saw wage reductions of approximately $1,200 per year.”
The president is sure to laud ObamaCare at his final State of the Union speech on Tuesday. And no doubt he’ll boast about the 11.3 million people enrolled in an ObamaCare exchange by the end of the year. That may look like “unprecedented demand” to Obama administration officials. But in fact, it’s an ominous sign that ObamaCare is losing what little luster it had in the marketplace. 11.3 million is nothing to celebrate when you consider that at the end of open enrollment last year, the administration claimed that 11.7 million had signed up. By the end of the entire year, that number had been whittled down to about 9 million, of which 8.2 million re-enrolled.
A new National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper shows that workers with employer-based coverage experienced a yearly reduction in wages of $1,200 because of the mandate to expand coverage to 26-year-old children. The researchers from Stanford and Harvard also found that the wage reduction was not concentrated among those with children on their policies, showing that all workers with employer coverage are paying a price for the ObamaCare mandate.
December’s omnibus budget package contained a measure to delay a provision of the Affordable Care Act by two years is giving finance chiefs some extra time to prepare.
The tax on high-cost employee health plans, or “Cadillac” tax, puts employers on the hook for a 40% levy on any excess cost of health plans above certain thresholds. Even before the delay, many companies and municipalities had already begun to assess whether their plans would trigger additional payments and make preemptive changes to avoid it.
If it’s December, it must be time for a massive, one-time, all-or-nothing annual spending bill. That’s just what has become of Congress’s core function over the past decade. This year’s version includes a 2,009 page omnibus appropriations bill and a 233 page tax bill mostly extending various “temporary” tax preferences and other provisions.
Republicans have majorities in both houses, so this bill reflects their priorities on the whole. But on health care, it’s actually most interesting for what it suggests about the Democrats—some meaningful number of whose votes are after all necessary for passage.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly today 65-33 in favor a $1.8 trillion package of spending bills and tax breaks, sending the legislation to President Obama’s desk for his signature. Included in the two bills are provisions trimming some of the levies that help finance ObamaCare. A tax on medical devices would be suspended for two years, a levy on health insurers would stop for a year and a tax on higher-cost insurance policies would be postponed two years until 2020.
It has been called into question whether it’s true that Sen. Marco Rubio is responsible for the provision (inserted into last year’s annual spending bill and now again into this year’s) that requires the risk-corridor program in ObamaCare to be budget neutral. Like this year’s giant spending law, last year’s omnibus bill was the result of a leadership-driven process that drew on substantive expertise from the relevant committee staffs but did not much involve most members of either house. But Rubio was without question the first and most significant congressional voice on this subject, and if he hadn’t done the work he did, the risk-corridor neutralization provision would not have been in last year’s (or this year’s) budget bill.
The House voted 318-109 to send a $680 billion tax-extenders bill to the Senate, which is expected to approve the legislation alongside the omnibus spending measure. The tax legislation, which would make permanent some tax credits and extend several others, is the product of a deal reached by Democratic and Republican leaders earlier this week.
“With this tax bill, families and businesses are going to have the long-term certainty that they need, instead of scrambling year after year to find out what’s next,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Thursday before the vote.
The Cadillac tax contained in the Affordable Care Act represented an attempt to remedy a major problem with health care and tax policy – the exclusion of the cost of employer-sponsored insurance from both income and payroll taxes. Regardless of political leanings, economists generally agree that the exclusion causes employers to offer overly expansive insurance. This depresses wages and increases overall health care spending. Moreover, the exclusion provides a disproportionate benefit to the wealthy.
It goes without saying that delaying a scheduled tax increase is a tax cut. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, a two year delay of the Cadillac tax combined with deductibility will save taxpayers $20 billion over the next decade. Conservatives are for tax relief.
Conservatives are for repealing ObamaCare, in whole or in part. The Cadillac Plan excise tax is a part of how ObamaCare’s latticework of subsidies and regulations is supported. Delaying on the road to repealing parts of the ObamaCare law is good public policy. Eventually, we want to repeal and replace all of ObamaCare.