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Mark Caserta: Obamacare will hurt nation's employment

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

As the mandates of the Affordable Healthcare Act are enforced across the nation, far too many Americans are still unaware of the impending economic impact.

For whatever reason, low-information voters tuned out the indisputable facts of Obamacare and tuned in to the Obama rhetoric about "everyone deserving quality health care."

Unfortunately, many people just heard "free health care."

The Affordable Healthcare Act is far from being "free." And even those fortunate enough to begin receiving health insurance from their employer will end up sharing the costs, in one form or another.

Obamacare, in reality, provides individuals and businesses the ability to purchase insurance through state-based, state partnership or federally facilitated competitive marketplaces called Affordable Insurance exchanges. Through exchanges, insurance companies will compete for business on a "level playing field" and qualified consumers will have a choice of health plans to fit their needs.

A far less mentioned fact is that it also requires "non-exempt" Americans to purchase health coverage or pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service, which will be charged with collecting fines from those choosing not to follow the Obama mandate.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that nearly 6 million Americans will face a tax penalty for not purchasing health insurance. Ironically, many of these will be middle-class Americans.

It doesn't take an insurance expert to understand insurance companies can't possibly begin covering individuals with "pre-existing conditions," as Obamacare requires, without recouping costs in some manner. I expect a collaborative effort by insurance providers to keep the aforementioned "level playing field" high.

Obamacare also has prompted many employers to take action to protect their bottom line.

Employers with 50 or more employees will be required to provide health benefits to cover their full-time employees averaging at least 30 hours a week. And 100 half-time employees are considered equivalent to 50 full-time employees.

So an employer who has 40 full-time employees working 30 hours a week and 20 half-time employees working 15 hours a week will be subject to the same requirement.

Many of these businesses have slim profit margins. Let me assure you, employers' business plans do not include being less profitable under Obamacare. Employers already have begun re-assessing their staffing and hiring practices in anticipation of increased costs.

One such industry scrambling to make preparatory adjustments is the service industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the service industry, or non-manufacturing sector, is at its highest level of employment in years. Leisure and hospitality, restaurants, retailers and other service providers now account for nearly 80 percent of our nation's work force.

But service industry employers are now deciding to either reduce their work force below the Obamacare minimum or lower employees' hours below the number requiring them to provide healthcare. Those unable to adjust accordingly are simply forced into raising their costs of services.

Call it what you will -- a penalty, tax or a mandate. Obamacare is a looming disaster. Business savvy individuals understand its foreboding implications upon our nation's economy.

Unfortunately, many Americans still don't see this economic storm approaching.

Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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