The Baucus Plan Punishes Single People -- Especially Single Moms.

I want to say a little more about the "free rider" provision in the Baucus health plan, which Tim highlighted this morning. The HELP Committee and House bills require most employers to provide health insurance for their workers. But the Baucus plan does not include such an employer mandate. Instead, it requires companies to partially reimburse the government for the insurance affordability credits of uninsured workers and their dependents.

This creates some very perverse incentives. It discourages companies from hiring single people, who don't have a spouse whose employer-provided insurance will cover them, thus offering the employer an "out" on the subsidy payback. It encourages employers to pressure married, uninsured workers to go into their spouse's health plans, even if the worker feels they'd get better coverage for a lower cost on the exchange. And worst of all, it particularly discourages firms from hiring single people with children, because they'd have to pay for the children's subsidies, as well.

We know who'll be affected most by this bad, bad idea: low-income women, who are already pushed into "pink collar" jobs with more unstable hours, less benefits, and less pay than similarly educated men. Now even those jobs will be harder for single moms to get, as employers weigh whether a worker earning $15,000 or $20,000 a year is worth paying an extra several thousand dollars for, because of this subsidy payback requirement. Why not just hire someone without kids? Or someone married?

None of the health reform bills in front of Congress do enough to dismantle the link between work, marriage, and health insurance. This system especially hurts women, since only 38 percent of women have health coverage through their own job, compared to 50 percent of men. It is unjust for women to have to consider what will happen to their health coverage -- and their children's -- if they leave an abusive relationship, for example. But while the House and HELP bills mostly maintain the status quo, the Baucus bill would make things much worse.

--Dana Goldstein

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