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W&L Law Prof Examines ACA Requirements on Employers

Washington and Lee Law Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson has published an op/ed in the Tulsa World examining Hobby Lobby Store, Inc. and the company’s decision to challenge the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that employers provide access to birth control.

In the commentary, Prof. Wilson examines the costs to employers, and to employees, if companies choose not abide by the ACA’s rules. Hobby Lobby faces a $1.3 millon a day fine for each day it fails to comply with certain provisions of the ACA. But Wilson argues that companies can get around this by simply dropping coverage all together for employees. From the op/ed:

“The mandates precipitate crushing penalties that no institution could sustain. Except for one thing: If these employers drop health-care coverage, incurring the fines, they no longer pay for the even greater per-employee cost of health-care coverage. Today, an individual plan costs $5,429 annually on average, a family plan $20,728 – with businesses footing from 70 percent to 80 percent of the cost.

True, employers might be forced to raise salaries to compete for higher-income employees. Economists generally agree employee benefits are a dollar-for-dollar substitute for wages. But, lower-income employees will not get salary boosts because they will be made better off financially by receiving premium tax credits.

All of this means that the cost of the nuclear option may not be nearly so grave as calculated penalties would lead one to believe.”

The entire commentary is available online. Prof. Wilson, co-editor of the book “Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts,” will speak Jan. 28 at the University of Tulsa College of Law about Hobby Lobby and the contraceptive coverage mandate, in a public debate with Tulsa Associate Dean Tamara Piety, a law professor and First Amendment expert.