What are the Implications of Long COVID for Employment and Health Coverage?

Link: https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/what-are-the-implications-of-long-covid-for-employment-and-health-coverage/

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Preliminary evidence suggests there may be significant implications for employment: Surveys show that among adults with long COVID who worked prior to infection, over half are out of work or working fewer hours (Figure 2). Many conditions associated with long COVID—such as malaise, fatigue, or the inability to concentrate—limit people’s ability to work, even if they have jobs that allow for remote work and other accommodations. Two surveys of people with long COVID who had worked prior to infection showed that between 22% and 27% of those workers were out of work after getting long COVID. In comparison, among all working-age adults in 2019, only 7% were out of work. Given the sheer number of working age adults with long COVID, the employment implications may be profound and are likely to affect more people over time. One study estimates that long COVID already accounts for 15 percent of unfilled jobs.

Author(s): Alice Burns

Publication Date: 1 Aug 2022

Publication Site: KFF

Retirement plans’ impact on recruiting and retention in the public market

Link: https://reason.org/commentary/retirement-plans-impact-on-recruiting-and-retention-in-the-public-market/

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A number of conclusions regarding the retirement plan’s impact on recruiting and retention can be drawn from the MissionSquare survey results:  

Recruiting and retention should not be looked at as a singular issue. While public employers have seen steady success in hiring, retention has suffered greatly in recent years in the public market. 

The survey does not make the case that an employer’s retirement plan, whatever the design, has a substantial impact on recruiting or retention at all. In fact, the survey shows employers are more focused on employee morale, development, and engagement to enhance retention, along with salary increases. The survey does not suggest that there is a widespread recruiting issue although some positions, including nurses, engineers, and police officers, are more difficult to hire than others. 

Plan sponsors should avoid treating retirement plan design only as a tool for retaining employees. Rather, they should focus on a retirement plan design that realistically meets the needs of a modern workforce. The retirement plan should focus on providing lifetime income in retirement commensurate with the part of a career that an employee spends with a particular employer. The plan should recognize the realities of mobile modern employees and should not penalize employees that do not spend a full career with one employer. 

The survey illustrates that employers are focused on employee wellness as a means to improve retention. It follows that keeping employees happy should also be the focus of the retirement plan. Retention is best addressed by having a retirement plan that addresses the realities of the workforce today, as noted above.  

Author(s): Richard Hiller

Publication Date: 9 Aug 2022

Publication Site: Reason

End the Tax Exclusion for Employer‐​Sponsored Health Insurance

Link: https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/end-tax-exclusion-employer-sponsored-health-insurance-return-1-trillion-workers-who?au_hash=uEDWOOo1RrC6QDCrTTk5sH9lnJyuweZdaUf8ZDik8E0

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The “tax exclusion” for employer‐​sponsored health insurance shields workers from paying income or payroll taxes on such benefits. The exclusion is an accident of history that predates modern health insurance and is roughly as old as the income tax itself. It fuels excessive health insurance coverage, medical spending, and health care prices and ties health insurance to employment. It has required Congress to intervene countless times to address problems it creates.

The exclusion requires a worker to let her employer control a sizable share of her earnings, to enroll in a health plan that is likely not her first choice, and to pay the remainder of the premium out of pocket. Overall, the tax code effectively threatens U.S. workers with $352 billion in additional taxes in 2022 if they do not let their employers control $1 trillion of their earnings. The additional tax that workers pay if they do not accept those terms constitutes an implicit penalty.

The tax code thus limits a worker’s ability to make her own health decisions. In the United States, compulsory health spending accounts for 83 percent of overall health spending, the ninth highest share among 34 advanced nations. The tax exclusion is the single largest contributor to compulsory health spending.

Reforming the exclusion would free U.S. workers to control $1 trillion of their earnings that employers currently control, give consumers more health care choices, and make health care more accessible. Building on the bipartisan success of tax‐​free health savings accounts appears to present the best politically feasible opportunity for reform. The United States will not have a consumer‐​centered health sector until workers control the $1 trillion of their earnings that the exclusion forces them to let employers control.

Author(s): Michael Cannon

Publication Date: 24 May 2022

Publication Site: Cato

When a Tax Break Is Actually a Tax Penalty

Link: https://reason.com/2022/06/08/when-a-tax-break-is-actually-a-tax-penalty/

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When is a tax break actually a tax penalty? When it’s the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance. 

That’s what Michael Cannon, Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies, convincingly argues in his recent paperEnd the Tax Exclusion for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance. His paper is a compact lesson in the ways that some supposed tax breaks can effectively function as tax penalties, not only distorting markets, but invisibly penalizing people for their choices. And it’s a reminder of the ways that seemingly minor, offhanded policy decisions, made with little thought to long-term consequences, can exert a haunting influence long after they are made.

The tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance is exactly what it sounds like: a carve-out for health coverage offered through the workplace. 

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But he argues that, in practical terms, this tax break actually acts as a stealth penalty on workers who want to make their own health insurance choices. Typically even a generous employer only offers a handful of health plans, and those plans are unlikely to take the exact form an employee would otherwise choose on his or her own. If an employee wants to purchase any other plan, however, he or she would have to do it with money first received—and taxed—as cash compensation. Thanks to taxation, it would be worth a lot less. Thus the tax exclusion acts as a tax penalty on any employee who wants to choose their own health insurance. 

Author(s): Peter Suderman

Publication Date: 8 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Reason

The CEO-to-Worker Pay Gap Is Climbing to Truly Obscene Levels

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/06/ceo-worker-pay-gap-obscene-levels-lowest-median-wages

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new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) analyzes compensation at the three hundred publicly held US corporations with the lowest median wages in 2020. The report, authored by Sarah Anderson, Sam Pizzigati, and Brian Wakamo, finds that the average gap between CEO and median worker pay jumped to 670:1 in 2021, up from 604:1 in 2020. Forty-nine of the firms had ratios above 1,000:1.

Wages at 106 of the firms did not keep pace with the 4.7 percent average US inflation rate last year, and of those, sixty-seven spent resources buying back their own stock, with repurchases totaling $43.7 billion. The biggest buybacks took place at Lowe’s, Target, and Best Buy. As the IPS notes, “With the $13 billion Lowe’s spent on share purchases, the company could have given each of its 325,000 employees a $40,000 raise. Instead, median pay at the company fell 7.6 percent to $22,697.” None of the big-box stores’ retail workers are currently unionized, though there are nascent union campaigns underway at several Target stores.

Of the three hundred companies analyzed by the IPS, 40 percent received federal contracts between October 1, 2019 and May 1, 2022, for a combined value of $37.2 billion. Only six of the 119 contractors had pay gaps of less than 100:1. Maximus, a company that handles federal student debts and Medicare call centers, took in the most federal contracts of any of the firms, with $12.3 billion during the period under consideration. IPS notes that Maximus CEO Bruce Caswell made $7.9 million in compensation, or 208 times the firm’s median income and thirty-six times the salary of the officials who direct the agencies awarding the contracts.

Author(s): Alex N. Press

Publication Date: 7 June 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

A Four-Day Workweek Will Benefit Everyone, But Especially Women

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/03/four-day-workweek-trial-gender-pension-gap

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A four-day week would make it easier to balance life and work responsibilities. This would decrease the pressure on women to drop out of full-time employment and make it easier for others to rejoin full-time employment if they wish. It would also decrease underemployment, lessen the costs of paid childcare, and help level the playing field for unpaid care work by keeping men at home longer.

A recent policy paper published by the Women’s Budget Group comments in regard to a four-day week: “As the marginal worker is usually female, this effect could reduce gender gaps in both employment and income.” As the definition of full-time employment is decreased, more women will surpass the £10,000 a year threshold for autoenrollment and also have higher sustained pension contributions throughout their working life.

Belmont Packaging in Wigan, a company that practices a four-day week, asked its employees how they spend their three-day weekend. One employee said, “It’s like a bank holiday every week. Not exactly like one, because the wife has me doing chores every Friday.” During the early months of the pandemic, when many workers were kept at home, research showed that men took on a greater share of housework and women’s disproportionate burden decreased.

Author(s): James Derry

Publication Date: 25 March 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

If You’re a Frontline Worker, States Might Give You a Raise

Link:https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2022/01/27/if-youre-a-frontline-worker-states-might-give-you-a-raise

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Quit rates in fields such as education, health care and government are rising, as they are in other industries.

“You can see people moving out of teaching, and fewer teachers being hired,” said Brad Hershbein, senior economist and deputy director of research at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a nonpartisan research organization based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “And this also seems to be the case for health care workers—nurses in particular.” 

States employ about 5% fewer people in total than they did when the pandemic hit, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hospitals employ about 2% fewer people today than they did in March 2020.

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Unexpectedly high revenues and federal COVID-19 relief funds give state leaders an opportunity to address the problem this year. States can use federal dollars from last year’s mammoth American Rescue Plan Act to offer bonuses to essential workers and grow the public sector workforce by up to 7.5%.

Author(s): Sophie Quinton

Publication Date: 27 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Pew Trusts

Covid Spurs Biggest Rise in Life-Insurance Payouts in a Century

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-spurs-biggest-rise-in-life-insurance-payouts-in-a-century-11639045802

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The Covid-19 pandemic last year drove the biggest increase in death benefits paid by U.S. life insurers since the 1918 influenza epidemic, an industry trade group said.

Death-benefit payments rose 15.4% in 2020 to $90.43 billion, mostly due to the pandemic, according to the American Council of Life Insurers. In 1918, payments surged 41%.

The hit to the insurance industry was less than expected early in the pandemic because many of the victims were older people who typically have smaller policies. The industry paid out $78.36 billion in 2019, and payouts have typically increased modestly each year.

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In the 1918 flu pandemic, the number of U.S. deaths reached about 675,000, with mortality high in people younger than 5 years old, 20 to 40 years old, and 65 years and older, according to the CDC’s website.

The ACLI’s data show two other years, both in the 1920s, when year-over-year increases topped 15%, when there also were influenza epidemics, said Andrew Melnyk, the ACLI’s vice president of research and chief economist.

Author(s): Leslie Scism

Publication Date: 9 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

How Many People in NYC Are At Risk of Losing Their Job Over the Mayor’s Vaccine Mandate?

Link:https://mishtalk.com/economics/how-many-people-in-nyc-are-at-risk-of-losing-their-job-over-the-mayors-vaccine-mandate

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NYC Vaccination Data shows that at most, 18.3% of New Yorker residents are theoretically impacted, but not all of them work.

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That is less than half of the population of the city. Factoring in the vaccination rate, about 9% of the entire city is at risk of losing their jobs.

Thus Borelli is wildly off on his percentages.

I am not at all defending mayor de Blasio. Indeed, I heavily blasted him in New York City Mandates Vaccinations, Please Be Ready With Your Vaccine Card.

I am just in search of more accurate numbers.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 8 Dec 2021

Publication Site: MishTalk

Your New Woke 401(k)

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/your-new-woke-401-k-retirement-savings-esg-erisa-biden-administration-department-of-labor-proposal-11634753095

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While Democrats in Congress negotiate over trillions of dollars in new spending, the Biden Administration is quietly advancing its agenda through regulation. Witness a little-noticed proposed rule last week by the Labor Department that will add new political directives to your retirement savings.

The Administration says the rule will make it easier for retirement plans to offer 401(k) funds focused on ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives. In fact, the rule will coerce workers and businesses into supporting progressive policies.

An important Trump Labor rule last fall reinforced that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa) requires retirement plan fiduciaries to act “solely in the interest” of participants. The rule prevented pension plans and asset managers from considering ESG factors like climate, workforce diversity and political donations unless they had a “material effect on the return and risk of an investment.”

The Biden DOL plans to scrap the Trump rule while putting retirement sponsors and asset managers on notice that they have a fiduciary duty to include ESG in investment decisions. The proposed rule “makes clear that climate change and other ESG factors are often material” and thus in many instances should be considered “in the assessment of investment risks and returns.”

Author(s): WSJ editorial board

Publication Date: 20 Oct 2021

Publication Site: WSJ

States Have $95 Billion to Restore their Unemployment Trust Funds—Why Aren’t They Using It?

Link:https://taxfoundation.org/state-unemployment-trust-funds-2021/

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States are permitted to replenish their unemployment compensation (UC) trust funds using the $195.3 billion they received in Fiscal Recovery Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)—and they need the help, having paid out $175 billion in state-funded benefits since the start of the pandemic, in addition to the $661 billion shelled out by the federal government in extended and expanded benefits, for a total of about $836 billion between January 27, 2020 and September 11, 2021.[1]

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Pre-pandemic trust fund balances stood at $72.5 billion. Today, aggregate trust fund balances are negative, at -$11.1 billion, reflecting $44.8 billion in indebtedness currently incurred by 10 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. By federal standards, 34 state accounts are currently insolvent, with $114.6 billion needed to bring them all up to what the federal government regards as minimum adequate levels.

Author(s): Savanna Funkhouser, Jared Walczak

Publication Date: 22 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Tax Foundation