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PolitiFact: Survey estimates Obamacare delay affects few workers

The statement

Says Obama administration delay of health care law's large employer mandate affects about 1 percent of the American workforce.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press

The ruling

Just how many workers does the health care law's employer mandate affect, anyway?

The Obama administration's announcement that it would delay requiring large employers to provide full-time employees with affordable coverage inflamed opponents of the law. (And dismayed some supporters, who questioned whether the president had that authority.)

But some pointed out that, in any case, the mandate wouldn't affect many folks.

"Those (companies) who are subject to the mandate, 95 percent of them already offer insurance," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. "So, we're talking about probably 1 percent of the American workforce that works for a company subject to the mandate that didn't get insurance and will be able to get it in the health exchanges that open up in October."

Are we talking about just 1 percent of the American workforce?

It turns out that "1 percent of the American workforce" is a ballpark calculation based on survey research on employees who work for large firms that don't offer insurance.

Several prominent health economists we spoke with think that's a pretty reasonable way to estimate it. But some others think it may understate the reach of the mandate by millions.

The size of the U.S. labor force, according to the government, is about 156 million.

Menendez's sources estimated the mandate affects about 1 million or 1.5 million workers — about 1 percent of 156 million.

They focused only on the likely number of employees who work for the 5 percent of large firms that don't offer insurance, based on an employer survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But what about the uninsured workers who work for companies that offer insurance?

Christopher Conover, who works for the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke University, argues there are millions of workers who work for companies that offer insurance and are uninsured but may qualify under Obamacare.

He pointed to a recent example in the New York Times of a restaurant that would likely be subject to the employer mandate. The owner offers health coverage to employees, but only to nine of them.

But under the employer mandate, the restaurant owner estimates he would need to insure 22 employees. Conover argues any estimate of the number of workers affected by the mandate should include workers like the 13 restaurant employees who are currently left out because they work for a company that offers health insurance, just not to them.

Economists disagree about how common that situation really is, but overall, it remains a small sliver of the entire American workforce.

"I think the bottom line is that it is small," said Johnathan Gruber, an MIT professor who helped craft the Affordable Care Act. "Menendez may not be exactly right, but he is in the right ballpark."

As such we rate Menendez's claim Mostly True.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Survey estimates Obamacare delay affects few workers 07/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 7:35pm]

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