Fixing the mandate from hell

Legislators wanted to make employers offer insurance, without suffering any loss of full-time jobs, so they tried to make it very difficult to accidentally creep into part-time status with a tiny reduction in hours (presumably made up by an hourly wage boost). But this created a different problem: Now if you can’t afford to offer your employees insurance, you have to reduce their hours a lot. Reducing someone’s hours from 35 to 34 can be finessed into an almost unnoticeable inconvenience. Reducing their hours by one-seventh, on the other hand, is going to be noticeable to both employer and employee.

So how do we fix this problem? Kevin thinks it will be easy, but I don’t see it. Do we get rid of the employer mandate, which will be super expensive? Do we raise the limit to 35 hours a week, which would probably result in somewhat less dumping, but would still cost a bunch of money? And which program would Democrats like to cut to pay for the extra expense? Because Republicans would definitely not be on board with raising taxes for it.

This isn’t just politically hard; it’s actually hard. There isn’t a lot of money to go around right now, and weak labor markets are going to magnify the cost of whatever decision you make. There haven’t been any easy solutions in health care for decades now, and the 30-hour rule is no exception.