Members of Congress last week were considering three distinct employer mandate proposals. Which are the best and worst ideas -- from both a policy and political perspective?
• Idea 1: Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., called a "free rider" alternative to the employer mandate a "live option," according to a June 25 report by CongressDaily. Instead of requiring employers to provide health coverage for their workers, they would have to contribute the cost of tax credits for eligible workers in an exchange. Employers also would have to contribute half of the national average Medicaid costs for workers enrolled in the low-income federal health care program.
• Idea 2: Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill could emerge with an employer "pay or play" proposal, but that it would not be a payroll fee. Dodd said the committee was considering the approach used in Massachusetts, where companies must pay $300 for every employee not offered insurance. However, he said the payment would be higher in the HELP bill.
• Idea 3: House Democrats are talking about requiring employers to offer a set contribution toward a benefit plan that met a minimum standard or pay an 8 percent payroll fee.
What should Congress do, and how should it treat small businesses?