O-Care expert backs alternative to employer mandate

A leading authority on the Affordable Care Act is proposing a way to repeal and place the law's requirement that larger employers offer health insurance to their workers.

Tim Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee Law School who supports ObamaCare, suggested that the law require employers to spend a certain percentage of their payroll on health benefits.

That system would replace a series of complex requirements under the current employer mandate, which says that companies of 50 or more 30-hour-per-week workers must provide health coverage.

Those standards have created a headache for employers as they try to count employees and employee hours.

The Obama administration has enacted several delays in response, eliciting both praise and criticism from Republican lawmakers who want the mandate repealed altogether.

Jost called the administration's delays a "cry for help" in an interview with Vox.com.

Administration officials "realize this is a real heavy lift and are looking for how to do it in a responsible way," he said. "It would be an advantage to have this part of the Affordable Care Act working, and not have this be a distraction."

Jost noted that the House passed a similar version of the employer mandate in 2009. He outlined how the system would work in a blog post for Health Affairs, a policy journal, on Wednesday.

"The House bill required all employers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health benefits," he wrote.

"Small employers were required to pay a smaller percentage of payroll, which rose as total payroll increase. Employers who spent less than the minimum paid the difference … to the federal treasury as a tax."

Jost argued that all parties — workers, employers and the Obama administration — would reap benefits from rejiggering the mandate.

He urged candidates to discuss the alternative with voters on the campaign trail as one that could provide "widespread benefits" and garner "widespread support."