Health Insurance

Don't want health insurance? Too bad, they're making you buy

Ummmm, yeah, we're also going to need you to go ahead and buy health insurance.

That may sound like a line by the passive-aggressive boss Bill Lumbergh out of the cult movie "Office Space," but it's in fact what some companies are telling employees: either enroll in job-based health coverage or take a hike.

And, it's totally legal under Obamacare.

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Kaiser Health News, in a story published Tuesday, noted that some employers are demanding that their workers buy the firm's health plans and they are deducting the monthly costs from their paycheck "whether they want to or not."

The story notes that under the Affordable Care Act, "employers with 100 or more full-time workers can enroll them in company coverage without their say so as long as the plan is affordable and adequate. That means the employee contribution is no more than 9.5 percent of the federal poverty guideline and the plan pays for at least 60 percent of covered medical expenses, on average."

But Obamacare doesn't require companies to make workers do so.

A marketplace guide works on the federal enrollment website.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

However, the companies that are forcing workers to sign up for health coverage may mistakenly believe that they face Obamacare penalties of up to $3,000 per worker if employees aren't enrolled in insurance. The law actually imposes such fines if a large employer doesn't offer affordable health coverage and a worker then gets federally subsidized health insurance through an Obamacare exchange.

A Miami Herald story in January noted that two companies that employ workers at Miami International Airport were forcing employees to enroll in job-based health insurance, and that both companies suggested in letters to workers that their hand was forced by the ACA.

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"Nothing in the Affordable Care Act directs employers to make their coverage mandatory for employees," a Treasury Department spokesperson told Kaiser Health News.

The spokesman added that the the law requires large employers "to either offer coverage or pay a fee if their full-time workers access tax credits to get coverage on their own in the marketplace."

Read the Kaiser Health News story here.

Read the Miami Herald story here.