Will ObamaCare Force Employers to Snoop Into Their Employees' Family Finances?


In today's Wall Street Journal, Janet Adamy notes that large employers (those with 50 or more employees) are worried about the health care overhaul's employer mandate. Regulators, meanwhile, are having trouble figuring out exactly how to enforce it. One problem she notes: the law requires employers to adhere to a standard for health insurance affordability that's based on family income:

Moreover, companies are worried about another standard that requires they offer care that is "affordable," or roughly 9.5% of an employee's household income. The employers say they can't calculate that without asking employees how much their spouses or dependents earn—a potential privacy violation that may not be verifiable, either.

So employers may be put in a situtation in which they either forced to either violate the law or intrude into the family finances of their employees. At minimum, this provision has the potential to seriously alter how Americans conduct salary and compensation negotiations: Who wants to pay Sally more when her husband brings in a million bucks a year on Wall Street? Why give Mike a raise this year when his wife just made partner at her law firm, and brought in a giant bonus? Even if employers make it explicit policy to avoid making compensation decisions on such factors, the knowledge that one employee's spouse makes a ton of money is almost sure to have a subtle effect. 

As I noted last summer, the law's government-run health insurance exchanges, which dole out subsidies based on family income, may have similar verification issues. 

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  1. Link to WSJ article is wrong, it is pointing to reason article instead.

  2. We’re approaching a bizarre singularity of sorts, where every new government regulation conflicts with an existing government regulation. This will, of course, not be taken as a reason to remove any regulations. They’ll just add more regulations to clarify which regulation takes precedence in which cases.

    1. The lawyers who write the regulations make them as complicated as possible so as to guarantee the need to pay lawyers to interpret them.
      The more complicated the regulations are the more possible interpretations can be derived, so if you pay a lawyer enough money he can reverse engineer the interpretation that best fits your situation.
      If that fails then lawyers can be paid to influence the lawyers who write the regulation into modifying it so the correct interpretation can be reached.

    2. No, it will merely be up to the regulator to decide which to obey, which is the point.

      Hermes Conrad: Not so fast! While I was filing, I came upon a certain document filed by a certain Morgan Proctor. Form B, notification of romantic entanglement.

      Fry: That’s right, she fraternized me!

      Morgan Proctor: That form wasn’t about you. It refers to my high school prom date. It was a regulation date that ended in regulation disappointment.

      Hermes Conrad: Yes, but you only stamped it four times.

      [All gasp]

      Morgan Proctor: No! No! I was young and reckless!

      1. Requisition me a beat!

    3. It is what the Communists did. They made so many laws and made them so vague, everyone was guilty of something. This allowed the government to be completely arbitrary in who it prosecuted while still technically following the law.

      1. Rand pointed this out in Atlas Shrugged. Of course, she experienced the soviet version first hand, so working it into the story isnt surprising.

        1. Rand had her flaws. But she had a great understanding of how this kind of thing actually works. Liberals hate her and dismiss her because nothing hurts more than looking in a mirror.

          1. no lub-rahls reject rand’s narcissism in life & philosophy

            1. It is true that no liberals reject her narcissism. Good point.

              1. Although I woulda’ said “most.”

                1. I mean “most don’t”.
                  I guess I’m just as careless as Mr. Testes.

          2. Liberals attacked her as a person so they could avoid debating her ideas.

  3. This is why the IRS should take over.

  4. With no means of enforcement, it certainly would be easy to lie to an employer. Why wouldn’t you if it meant cheaper insurance and more money in your pocket?

    1. Well, then of course there will have to be regulations made that you can’t lie to your employer, duh. Of course, I can’t imagine the level of stupidity such a regulation might entail, so we’ll have to assume it would be as stupid as possible, which they’ve shown is the norm so far.

      1. and then you have to report every bonus or raise since it directly impacts your insurance amount?

        Commerce Clause, bitchez!

        1. Or the IRS can dole out your health insurance! Perfect, right?

          1. yeah… perfect.

          2. What happens to my health premium if a I win on Jeopardy?

            1. Then…

              You lost on Jeopardy, baby
              ooh, ooh ooh ooh
              You lost on Jeopardy

              1. You’re a complete loser
                You don’t even get a copy of our home game.

                1. I took Potpourri for one hundred
                  And then my head started to spin
                  Well, I’m givin’ up, Don Pardo
                  Just tell me now what I didn’t win, yeah, yeah

                  1. I’m disgusted with myself for recognizing a Weird Al reference.

                    1. I’ll take “Internet Assholes” for $100 Alex.

                    2. You shouldn’t be. The guy is the best at what he does (that being being Weird Al).

                2. But John, they still got to stay in the Holiday Inn Ramada in FABULOUS Hollywood, California!

            2. I’ll take Reasons For Outsourcing for $200 Alex

      2. I can no longer imagine a way in which single payer could have been more stupid than this. Single payer at least has a simple premise. This is so complex intrusion into every facet of people’s lives is ostensibly justified by it.

    2. Define “Household Income”. Is it four college kids sharing a rambler this semester?

  5. Moreover, companies are worried about another standard that requires they offer care that is “affordable,” or roughly 9.5% of an employee’s household income. The employers say they can’t calculate that without asking employees how much their spouses or dependents earn?a potential privacy violation that may not be verifiable, either.

    So in order to comply with the regulation, the employers would have to violate Equal Employment Opportunity Law by having to ask otherwise impertinent questions.

    And people like Tony still hold on to this belief that our wise overlords can manage people’s healthcare better that individual persons?

    1. Well, surely one needn’t worry if one’s done nothing wrong, right? Right?

      There will be no issues, I’m sure.

    2. It’s not merely that Government will do a better job; only with government can
      Tony ensure no one has more than he gets.

      When one’s entire moral system has envy of luckier people as its primary motivator, the free market is completely unacceptable.

      Then it becomes a discussion of which forms of government action produce the greatest ‘fairness’ – fairness being defined, of course, as nobody having more than Tony does of anything that he cares about.

      To get a sense of Tony’s emotional reaction to your arguments, OM, imagine if I crafted a utilitarian argument that provided medical care to everyone at the expense of 1% of children being analy raped every year. Tony’s horror at people having more stuff than him is, I think based on some of his diatribes, at a similar level to the common man’s reaction to child rape at an industrial scale.

      1. equality == institutionalized envy

      2. Except that Tony is a fucking sockpuppet who keeps suckering you dolts into arguing with him. Just stop.

        1. friends don’t let friends argue with tony

    3. so a company would not know how much their employees earn?

      1. Re: OO,

        so a company would not know how much their employees earn?

        A company already knows how much their employees earn, as salaries and deductions are part of expenses.

        What’s your real question, double-asshole?

      2. think it through. you can do it.

      3. No, they actually don’t. They know how much they pay. If the employee has, say, a side business run out of his home, or investment income, or another job, the employer doesn’t know that. And doesn’t have a right to know.

        1. its reasonable to believe that most full-time employees, at a company of 50 or more (obamacare applies) do NOT work 2d jobs. therefore the employeer knows what they earn. this is more useless bitching

          1. Fuck you very much. Lots of architects and engineers do freelance work from home to supplement their income.

            1. I make electronic kits which I sell online. I also write books which bring in a (very) modest income. I somehow manage to do this with a full time job.

              Multi-tasking, how does it f*cking work?

              1. You write books? What genre?

          2. How fucking stupid can you be? This is about family income. Of course your employers know how much they pay you. They still have no business knowing how much the other members of your household make.

          3. Re: OO,

            its reasonable to believe that most full-time employees, at a company of 50 or more (obamacare applies) do NOT work 2d jobs.

            Assumptions are the building blocks of all fuckups. No government agency is going to accept your assumptions, it will want the proof of household income, so don’t try to be cute, double-asshole.

            1. “double-asshole”

              I like “Mr. Testes” better.

          4. Many of them have spouses, or own stocks, or have bank accounts that pay interest, or own rental property, etc. That’s all part of “household income.”

            1. And
              Working kids that live at home.
              Family trusts
              Businesses they operate
              Part time jobs
              Passive Business Investment Income
              Royalty Income
              Capital Gains
              Farming Income
              Government Support

              Maybe we can make a grand bargain with socialist douche bags.

              We agree to tax wages with a top MTR of 80% but the only income subject to that tax is wages from union contracts,

              Deal, urine

    4. But they’re the Top Men?!

  6. The situation is so bad for American now .They will be intruded into the family finances of their employees

  7. The situation is so bad now for American. I think they will be intruded into the family finances of their employees at last.

  8. The situation is so bad now for American.

  9. We need Ministry of Wellness bureaucrats with instant access to all your family income information (up to and including how much you made selling off your wife’s mother’s Barbie doll collection) who will be able to price any health services you receive according to your “ability to pay”.

    See how easy this is?

    And, while they’re at it, they can decide what sort of car you are rated for, and what brand of crosstrainers are appropriate for an individual in your station of life.

    1. Will a poor fatso pay more than a trim yuppie?

      1. Depends on which political party the poor fatso registered with.

    2. Dear Mr. P. Brooks:

      Our secret panel of all-knowing and infallible Health Experts has determined that your prognosis for future health and wellness is adversely affected by your excessive posting on the Reason website, and that the adverse health effects will have a direct cumulative effect on interstate commerce, thereby increasing the cost of health care without justification.

      Henceforth, in the name of the American People, you are hereby limited to one (1) posting every twenty-four (24) hours. On selected weekends, you may be allowed one (1) additional posting if a qualified medical professional, in his/her opinion and at your expense, certifies that s/he finds it appropriate and permissible to allow the one (1) additional posting.

      You have ten (10) days to appeal this ruling. However, because this directive is deemed to be retroactive, please be advised that this ten (10) day appeal period began to run fifteen (15)days ago. You are also in repeated violation of this retroactive directive. Please pay the applicable penalty, which we emphasize is NOT a tax.


      Jessica Swannlake, Administrator, Bureau of Personal Aggravation Prevention and Minimization, U.S. Dep’t of Holistic Wellness

  10. “imagine if I crafted a utilitarian argument that provided medical care to everyone at the expense of …”

    …allowing the government to “select” promising candidates for medical training and press-gang them into the Ministry of Wellness for life to perform their patriotic humanitarian duty.

    1. THis could be a new “marriage penalty”.

  11. We don’t see a problem here.

  12. The squirrels ate the whole thing, that time.

    Will a poor fatso pay more than a trim yuppie?

    Of course not. But we cannot rule out the possibility of sending our fatso to a re-education fat camp. For the sake of society.

  13. My prediction:

    The “affordability” mandate will go into effect, and require that employers pry into their employees’ family income.

    Employees — not realizing that the boss is only doing what the government is mandating for the “employees’ own good” — will complain that their privacy is being invaded and that they are suffering “discrimination” due to their marital status.

    Obama and the Democrats will then respond with new legislation to protect “working families” from the despicable misdeads of the “big corporation” employers who, in reality, were simply complying with the previous legislation passed by Obama and the Democrats. Employers will then be punished by the government for doing what the government wanted them to do in the first place.

    And if we are truly lucky, there will be a new Working Families Privacy Administration (WFPA) to enforce the new law and issue regulations that are inherently in conflict with the Obamacare regulations, thus necessitating even more legislation….etc., etc., etc.

    1. I wouldn’t bet against that prediction, dude. Not at all.

      1. I’ll bet against it. This part:

        will complain that their privacy is being invaded and that they are suffering “discrimination” due to their marital status.

        Will never happen. When HR hands out the form during intake and explains it’s required by the government, 99% of people will fill it out and sign it without a second thought. Those that do have second thoughts, most will cave if HR says “no form, no job”.

        1. Don’t count on that. People will complain and resist, particularly in the public sector where they have civil service protection agaisnt discharge. And, based on my experience, the quality of one’s work is usually inversely related to the likelihood of one’s complaining about anything the employer asks one to do.

          1. What makes you think the public sector will be subject to the same rules?

  14. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..97012.html

    Leave it to HuffPo to finally get this thing released.

    1. Jesus, I guess even HuffPo isn’t immune from cease and desist orders.

  15. The real question is, what’s everyone’s lie?

    Mine is “Yeah, my extreme-sports-calendar-model wife makes 4.2mil a year, and we have sex constantly. Oh, there’s not a place for that on the form? Just mark it down in the margin somewhere.”

  16. “Why can’t you invest in the company? Your wife makes a bundle and just got that big bonus!”

  17. I’m trying not to think about it — I prefer to concentrate more on the moment they repeal this ungodly abomination

  18. Liberals are not exactly fans of privacy (unless an abortion or gay sex is involved). So I can’t imagine that they’ll be troubled by any of this.

  19. troubled by what? that one’s employeer knows what one earns?

    1. Jesus Tap Dancing Christ you are dumb. Employers only know how much they pay you dipshit, they don’t know how much your wife gets paid or how much you make on the side doing whatever.

    2. Except when they don’t. Which is often. You may be right that most (i.e. over 50%) people get nearly all of their income from a single employer. But there are many people (even those working for larger employers) who have second jobs, do freelance work, own rental property or have income generating investments. Just because 51% of people won’t need to have their privacy violated doesn’t make it OK to do it to the other 49%. If just one person is treated unjustly by a law, then the law is unjust.

    3. Re: Double-asshole,

      troubled by what? that one’s employeer knows what one earns?

      You should go get some reading comprehension courses. The problem is that the agency would require the employer to KNOW the employee’s HOUSEHOLD income, not just his or hers.

    4. Don’t worry buddy. You’ll be first in line for a brain transplant in 2014.

  20. I believe people’s family finances should not matter because relationships change all the time and people get divorced, or kids move away.

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