New York Times: the Obamacare employer mandate is basically useless.

Via @BrianFaughnan comes this tale of yet another thing about Obamacare that doesn’t work as intended, or indeed at all. The New York Times walks us through the math (Math. What a concept!). So why are a lot of employer-mandate health plans getting single-digit percentage signups? Well…

The annual premium for individual coverage through the Golden Corral Blue Cross Blue Shield plan is $4,800. [Golden Corral owner Billy] Sewell pays 65 percent for service workers, leaving them with a monthly cost of $140.

The health care law defines affordable employer-sponsored insurance as that priced at 9.5 percent or less of an employee’s annual household income for individual coverage. (Because employers do not know how much money their workers’ relatives make, there are several “safe harbors” they can use for compliance, including basing their calculation on only their own employees’ wages.) Mr. Sewell’s insurance meets the test, but $65 per biweekly paycheck is more than most of his workers are willing — or able — to pay for insurance that still carries steep out-of-pocket costs, including a $2,500 deductible.

Another wrinkle? No federal subsidies for employer-provided healthcare. Which means that there’s pretty much no point to the employer mandate in the first place, because if you’re making enough money to afford the employer-mandated plans, you were probably in a job that offered health insurance to begin with as part of the job; and if you can’t afford the plans, you’re better off with either ad hoc medical treatment, or a government-subsidized plan. Note that I am not going to pretend that anybody is better off being on Medicaid, which is a shame because that’s where Obamacare’s tending to shove all our poor people right now.

End result? Bad care, of course. The employer mandate assumed – like the rest of Obamacare, really – that there were lots of people out there who were absolutely desperate for health insurance, only they were being stymied by Evil Corporate Big Pharma Deros or somesuch that had stolen all the health insurance and was now using it to line their fetid grub-nests. They therefore baked into the cake the assumption that there would be a ready market. That informed the decisions and promises made by the government to insurers. How the Obama administration might theoretically deal with this mismatch between model and objective reality would be fascinating, except that I assume that nobody in the White House will bother to try to fix the situation. After all, they’re all so very busy updating their resumes and looking for that killer sinecure.

One last, cheerful note: the Times is apparently started to discover that twice as many people as expected decided last year to pay the Obamacare tax instead of getting health insurance.  I can only assume that this is because the New York Times, having only now discovered math, is operating under the assumption that nobody else had already run the numbers* on compliance…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Again: I TOLD YOU SO.