Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Volokh on Hobby Lobby

Of course the big news from yesterday was the SCOTUS ruling on the Hobby Lobby case. Here's a nice summary from UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh: "The Hobby Lobby majority, summarized in (relatively) plain English".

The decision was clearly a win for Hobby Lobby.  However, I don't know what wider ramifications (if any) it will have on the ObamaCare law.

And if you ever wondered how and why health insurance became coupled to employment in the US, here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in November 2013, "The Only Obamacare Fix Is For Obama To Legalize Real Health Insurance":
The current system of employer-based health “insurance” is an artifact of federal tax rules from World War II. When the U.S. government imposed wartime wage and price controls, employers could no longer compete for workers by offering higher salaries. Instead, they competed by offering more generous fringe benefits such as health insurance. In 1943, the IRS ruled that employees did not have to pay taxes on health insurance paid for by employers; in 1954, the IRS made this rule permanent.

This law permanently distorted the health insurance market in favor of employer-based plans. If an employer pays $100 for health insurance with pre-tax dollars, the employee enjoys the full benefit. But if the employer pays that $100 as salary, the worker will only be able to purchase $50-70 of insurance after taxes. The law also created perverse incentives for insurers to shift as many services as possible into pre-tax plans. Gradually, they started covering not just major expenses but minor routine expenses such as immunizations and well-baby checks. (Think of what would happen to the market for car oil changes if they were offered as a tax-free benefit through your workplace.)

Over time, this tax disparity helped employer-based health insurance dominate the private insurance market. Hence, most workers don’t own their own health insurance in the same way that they own their auto or homeowners insurance. When workers change jobs, they almost always must also change health plans...
The battles over what benefits should be provided by employers would evaporate if we uncoupled health insurance from employment.  No one expects their employer to provide their car insurance or homeowner's insurance.

For some specific reform proposals, read the full text of "The Only Obamacare Fix Is For Obama To Legalize Real Health Insurance".