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By Alex Wayne
WASHINGTON - The share of workers opting to take company medical coverage rather than more take-home pay rose in Massachusetts after the state overhauled its health system in 2006, a result the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may replicate, a report suggests.
The percentage of employees with insurance from their jobs rose to 72.1 in 2011 from 70.8 in 2006, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP analysis released Monday. In the same period, the U.S. number dropped to 58.3 percent from 68.2 percent.
The conflicting numbers between Massachusetts and the rest of the nation may act as a guidepost for the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, which requires most Americans to carry insurance beginning next year. The Massachusetts law was used by the Obama administration as a model for crafting the ACA.
“The mere existence of the requirement to have insurance may have influenced individuals as much, if not more than, the financial consequences for not doing so,” the researchers said.
Trade groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., have said businesses may drop employee coverage after weighing the benefits against the costs. The Congressional Budget Office said this year that about 27 million people are expected to gain coverage through the Affordable Care Act by 2017, though as many as 8 million people will lose health plans now offered through their employers.
U.S. penalties for not carrying insurance and the tax advantages for both employers who provide it and workers who receive coverage may discourage businesses from dropping their plans, at least in the first few years of the national health law, said Ceci Connolly, the managing director of PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute in Washington.
Employer-sponsored health insurance isn’t treated as taxable income under U.S. law, a benefit projected to cost the government $1 trillion in forgone taxes over the next five years.