Thomas MaCurdy: The Minimum-Wage Stealth Tax on the Poor – WSJ

February 24, 2015

One problem is that only about 5% of families have children and are supported by low-wage earnings; another is that higher minimum wages cause some workers to lose their jobs. Advocates of a higher minimum wage argue that the number of workers who gain far exceeds those who lose. Whatever the credibility of this calculus, there is yet another problem: If someone’s income is arbitrarily increased thanks to a legislatively mandated wage increase, someone else must pay for it.

Since economic evidence indicates that higher minimum wages don’t significantly affect employers’ profit rates, advocates instead say that employers will pass on these increased labor costs by raising the prices of their goods and services—and that “society,” or more affluent consumers, will pay these costs.

But will low-income families earn more from an increase in the minimum wage than they will pay as consumers of the now higher-priced goods? My research strongly suggests that they won’t.

via Thomas MaCurdy: The Minimum-Wage Stealth Tax on the Poor – WSJ.


Healthcare.gov 3.0 — Behavioral Economics and Insurance Exchanges — NEJM

February 19, 2015

As the federal government and states continue to refine their exchange websites, they may want to take fuller advantage of insights from behavioral sciences regarding the influence of design architecture on people’s choices. For starters, we believe that the websites should downplay powerful connotative labels such as bronze, silver, and gold. In addition, they should deemphasize complicated tables of financial information that lay out cognitively overwhelming details about premiums, copayments, deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and the like. Instead, they should make it easier for shoppers to estimate total annual costs under a series of plausible scenarios, such as expected utilization based on previous spending history, as well as under best-case and worst-case scenarios. Finally, when the influence of design architecture on choices is unknown, designers should partner with researchers who can run experiments to inform the process.

Health insurance exchanges have the potential to revolutionize U.S. health care markets. To maximize this potential, we think it’s incumbent on states and the federal government to minimize the potential for the public face of these exchanges to bias people’s choices. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed that a “State may . . . serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments.”5 The current health exchanges represent one very complicated experiment; we hope that state and federal decision makers are observing the outcomes.

via Healthcare.gov 3.0 — Behavioral Economics and Insurance Exchanges — NEJM.


Piling On Work to Escape Gap in Health Law – NYTimes.com

February 2, 2015

All told, four million adults in nearly two dozen states fall into the gap, and Texas has the most, nearly one million. Though it is impossible to know how many of these people are trying to bolster their incomes, enrollment counselors around the country say they routinely help people think through whether they can scrape together extra income to qualify for financial help.

“If they are self-employed and clean houses, we calculate how much do you get per house?” said Elizabeth Colvin, who runs an enrollment program through Foundation Communities, a nonprofit group here. “Could you do one extra house a month?”

“Sometimes they’re like, ‘I’m doing all I can; I can’t do any more,’ ” she said. “But then sometimes they’re like, ‘Yes, I’m actually looking for a part-time job right now.’ ”

via Piling On Work to Escape Gap in Health Law – NYTimes.com.


White House Seeks to Limit Health Law’s Tax Troubles – NYTimes.com

January 31, 2015

Obama administration officials and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties and as many people struggle with complex forms needed to justify tax credits they received in 2014 to pay for health insurance.

The White House has already granted some exemptions and is considering more to avoid a political firestorm.

Mark J. Mazur, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, said up to six million taxpayers would have to “pay a fee this year because they made a choice not to obtain health care coverage that they could have afforded.”

via White House Seeks to Limit Health Law’s Tax Troubles – NYTimes.com.


Is Your Data Safe at Healthcare.gov? – NYTimes.com

January 25, 2015

a company could connect Healthcare.gov data with users’ real identities: “Google, thanks to real name policies, certainly has information uniquely identifying someone using Google services. If a real identity is linked to the information received from Healthcare.gov it would be a massive violation of privacy for users of the site.”

“I think people should be concerned, because there’s a lot of sensitive data flowing back and forth” on Healthcare.gov, said Frank Pasquale, a law professor and the author of “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.” Even if the data provided to private companies is anonymized, he added, we shouldn’t necessarily be reassured: “There’s a big literature out there on broken promises of anonymization, of efforts where users were assured that the information was anonymized, but it wasn’t really anonymized well.”

via Is Your Data Safe at Healthcare.gov? – NYTimes.com.


Dreaded Tax Season To Get Even Worse For Obamacare Insured

January 21, 2015

Yes, ObamaCare is getting worse.

H&R Block estimates that up to half of Americans who received subsidies for health insurance under the ACA last year will owe the IRS money.

An estimated 87% of those who signed up for health insurance on the new exchanges got subsidies to reduce their health insurance premiums and sometimes their cost-sharing expenses.  An assistant professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University, John Graves, calculates the average subsidy was $208 too high.

via Dreaded Tax Season To Get Even Worse For Obamacare Insured.


My Way News – New privacy concerns over government’s health care website

January 21, 2015

A little-known side to the government’s health insurance website is prompting renewed concerns about privacy, just as the White House is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections for consumers.

It works like this: When you apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, dozens of data companies may be able to tell that you are on the site. Some can even glean details such as your age, income, ZIP code, whether you smoke or if you are pregnant.

The data firms have embedded connections on the government site. Ever-evolving technology allows for individual Internet users to be tracked, building profiles that are a vital tool for advertisers.

via My Way News – New privacy concerns over government’s health care website.


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