Favoring the lesser evil

By Allen Greenberg


How many Americans work simply so they can obtain health care insurance?

Apparently, quite a lot, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many of these people are now expected to abandon the workforce and, in doing so, slow the economy, all thanks to the availability of insurance subsidies under Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

That, at least, is one way of looking at it.

But there's another perspective on this. I’d like to suggest that we don’t really need people taking up jobs for the health benefits and little else.

No, these folks aren’t needed, nor wanted, not at a time when so many others are still looking for just about anything at all to replace the posting they lost in the recession or are hoping to land their first job now that they’ve finished school.

As the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff pointed out, a team led by a health economist at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business took a close look at the question of what happens to employment when people suddenly find themselves without a government-funded insurance program.

Their findings shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Focusing on Tennessee’s decision in 2005 to ratchet back its public health insurance program among childless adults, the researchers found that the state experienced a sudden employment increase not seen in the rest of the South. This, they said, strongly suggested people began looking for work once their state-paid health benefits had dried up.

And that, in turn, allowed the researchers to conclude that “the ACA will weaken the link between employment and health insurance through the creation of health insurance exchanges.”

“(The) individual mandate will require that nearly all individuals purchase health insurance, which may relieve adverse-selection pressures,” they wrote. “Additionally, low-income individuals participating in the exchanges will receive large tax subsidies, and those earning less than 138 percent of the poverty line regardless of their family or disability status are expected to receive health insurance through a Medicaid expansion.”

In other words, why work when you can get the government to pay for your health care?

The other important point that can be made here is that the CBO’s projection that Obamacare will cut the hours we work by what amounts to 2 million full-time jobs isn’t about companies slashing hours or jobs.

It’s about a barely-there, largely disengaged segment of the workforce saying thanks, but I’ll get mine elsewhere.

Some of those people will now become a real drag on the economy because they end up on Medicaid and other welfare programs. I don’t like the idea of using my tax dollars (or yours) to support these people. But I do think that may be a lesser evil than having them continue to essentially steal benefits from their employers.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com