Little Job Loss From Health Bills, Rand Study Predicts

SUPPORTERS of the embattled health-care reform bills in the US Congress may have found hope regarding the bills' effect on jobs. A study released Aug. 16 by the RAND Corporation think tank predicts only a slight job loss should employer mandates become law.

Employer mandates are a major component of the bill by Sen. George Mitchell (D) of Maine and of the bill by Richard Gephardt (D) of Missouri, under which employers would be forced to pay part of their employees' health costs. Many critics have assailed the mandates as an intolerable tax on business that would lead to massive job losses nationwide.

Estimates on the effect of mandates range from 76,000 jobs gained to 3.8 million lost. Yet Jacob Klerman and Dana Goldman of RAND predict only a ``small job loss effect for the lowest paid'' -

100,000 at the most.

The authors warn, however, that many working Americans will feel the effect of mandates as their paychecks shrink to compensate for rising employer costs. Because those most vulnerable to slashed paychecks or lost jobs are the currently uninsured who make between $4.25 and $6.25 an hour, Mr. Goldman disparages mandates as a ``regressive'' tax which will burden the ``working poor.''

The study is based on a Gephardt-defined employer mandate that requires businesses to pay 80 percent of employee health-care costs. The Mitchell bill, however, would require a 50 percent employer contribution under which, the authors predict, ``job loss would likely be 60,000 or below.''

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