NY Fed Surveys: Businesses Say Obamacare Raises Costs

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 06:45 PM

By Dan Weil

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Two surveys conducted by the New York Federal Reserve Bank in its jurisdiction area show that Obamacare is increasing the cost of healthcare insurance for businesses.

The area includes New York State, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"One clear finding" of the surveys, conducted in August, "was that the ACA [Affordable Care Act] was widely seen as raising health coverage costs for businesses," New York Fed researchers Jason Bram and Michael Kubiske write in a report.

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One survey covers manufacturers and the other service-sector companies. The median firm in both surveys expects their health insurance costs to rise 10 percent next year, after similar increases this year.

"Nearly 60 percent of service firms and nearly 75 percent of manufacturers said that the ACA increased health benefit costs per worker at least a little," Bram and Kubiske write. "Even larger proportions said it would raise costs next year."

However, "some businesses were taking other steps to offset some of the cost increases — steps such as increasing the proportion of part-time workers, scaling back on other compensation and especially passing along some of the price increase to their customers," the researchers note. "Still, about half of the firms surveyed were doing none of those, and the median respondent in both surveys expected to employ somewhat more full-time workers in 2015 than this year.

"It seems that the ACA has led to somewhat higher costs and that businesses are making various types of adjustments in response."

Meanwhile, Mort Zuckerman, chairman of U.S. News & World Report, argues that Obamacare is contributing to weakness in the job market.

"Many employers cut workers' hours to avoid the Affordable Care Act's mandate to provide health insurance to anyone working 30 hours a week or more," he writes in The Wall Street Journal.

"The unintended consequence of President Obama's signature legislation? Fewer full-time workers. In many cases two people are working the same number of hours that one had previously worked."

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