Most people intuitively know that the worst thing government can do in the middle of the deepest recession in 70 years is enact policies that increase the expected cost of labor. Yet that is exactly what happened last spring, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
How bad is it? Right now we’re estimating the cost of the minimum benefit package that everyone will be required to have at $4,750 for individuals and $12,250 for families — understanding that the proclivity in this Congress and in this Department of Health and Human Services is to add benefits, not reduce them, making the package even more expensive. That translates into a minimum health benefit of $2.28 an hour for full time workers (individual coverage) and $5.89 an hour (family coverage) for fulltime employees.
Granted, the law does not specify how much of the premium must be paid by the employer versus the employee — other than a government requirement that the employee’s share cannot exceed 9.5% of family income for low- and moderate-income workers and an industry rule of thumb that employers must pick up at least 50% of the tab. But the economic effects are the same, regardless of who writes the checks.
In four years’ time, the minimum cost of labor will be a $7.25 cash minimum wage and a $5.89 health minimum wage (family), for a total of $13.14 an hour or about $27,331 a year. (I think you can see already that no one is going to want to hire low-wage workers with families.)
Health care reform priced a whole bunch of low productivity workers out of the market.