Why Are So Many Economists Confused About the ACA’s Effects?

The implicit tax: Get a job with health benefits, and you lose your subsidy

Commentary by John C Goodman

Source: Psychology Today

What’s wrong with the business economists? Have they forgotten everything they learned in Econ 101?

Casey Mulligan explains it for the umpteenth time:

As far as I know, before this month the only place that one could read about the Affordable Care Act’s new employment tax was in this paper by David Gamage, in posts I have written for this blog, in my 2012 book, or in a 2013 paper. Even though the consequences of the law have been debated at least as far back as 2009, the law’s advocates have yet to acknowledge the new implicit employment tax, let alone estimate the number of people who will face it.

But in a recent paper, the Congressional Budget Office has joined me in explaining that it’s not just the implicit income tax that will contract the labor market. As the paper puts it, “The loss of subsidies upon returning to a job with health insurance is an implicit tax on working,” adding that the effect of the new tax is “similar to the effect of unemployment benefits” (see Page 120).

Once we consider that the new law has an employer penalty, too, the labor market will be receiving three blows from the new law: the implicit employment tax, the employer penalty and the implicit income tax. Regardless of how few economists acknowledge the new employment tax, it should be no surprise when the labor market cannot grow under such conditions.