Let's say that the bill wasn't passed. The company has the choice to pay $8,000 a year for an employee's health insurance, or pay $0 for the employee's health insurance and let the employee find their own insurance. Why would they even offer it at all?
Whether the company or the employee pays for health care, it has the same effect on the labor market. This is similar to payroll taxes. It doesn't matter if the employer or the employee pays it. That the worker pays half of the payroll taxes and the company pays half is immaterial to the effect it has on the supply and demand of labor. Mandated benefits work in a similar way, but can have less severe effects than payroll taxes if certain conditions are met. Of course, this assumes mandated benefits in lieu of payroll taxes.
It would probably be better to simply get the $8,000 added to your salary for you to spend as you please, either on health insurance, something else or some combination or the two, but workers like the idea of "benefits." You should probably be indifferent, however, between a job that pays $60k with $8k worth of benefits and a job that pays $68k with no benefits.
They offer health insurance to attract good employees. The law doesn't change that. It does encourage employers that previously did not offer health insurance benefits to start doing so.
Not necessarily. The penalty might increase the cost of hiring, which would reduce the the amount of labor demanded. Many jobs don't "deserve," for lack of a better word, health benefits. These are often part-time, menial jobs. There may be less of them, which would hurt the poorest, lowest skilled workers. The only way to mitigate this is if health care costs go down overall. However, extending any amount of health care in jobs that previously offered zero benefits will still raise the cost of labor. So a restaurant may start offering health insurance to all employees if they are required to do so but may also get rid of a few employees to pay for it. Any increased costs will be passed on to the consumer, which may have effects throughout the industry. If consumers decide they do not want to pay, restaurants will close, resulting in lost jobs anyway. Or employment may stay the same while wages go down, unless wages are already at the minimum wage.
I don't think it'll have much effect on salaried professionals, who probably won't lose their plans for the reason you stated, to retain talent.
Edited by Spokker, 03 July 2012 - 07:01 AM.