President Obama’s “play or pay” proposal could expand access to health coverage without destroying jobs, according to researchers who spoke at a forum organized by a liberal think tank.
Phillip Cryan, Jacob Hacker, and Ken Jacobs talked about the idea of requiring employers to provide health coverage, or else paying to support some other kind of health coverage system, today during a teleconference hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future, Washington.
Cryan, a public policy researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, said earlier studies, which predicted that a play-or-pay system would lead to major job losses, assumed that the cost of the system would amount to 40% of payroll
Assuming that the cost of the system proposed by the Obama administration would amount to as little as 4% of payroll, “expectations of job losses go away completely,” Cryan said.
Even if lawmakers imposed an 8% payroll tax for employers that choose to “pay,” rather than “play,” and they created no exemptions or sliding scale for small employers, a play-or-pay program would reduce employment by only about 0.1%, Cryan estimates in a paper posted on the Web by Campaign for America’s Future.
If the Obama system is adopted, there is good reason to expect significant job gains, while, at worst, there would be a minimal amount of job loss, Cryan predicted.
A play-or-pay system will create new jobs, increase productivity by improving worker health, create savings for employers, and lead to systemwide health care savings, Cryan said.
Hacker, co-director of the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic and Family Security at the University of California at Berkeley law school, and Jacobs, chair of the university’s Center for Labor Research and Education, talked about lessons from California’s experience about how a play-or-pay requirement might be structured.