Family Leave

Back in session for 2018 and it hasn’t taken long for some very important bills to come up for vote.  HB 628, “Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program” passed the House over many objections.  I did not vote for it because it poses very risky financial consequences and I don’t believe it was entirely thought out.  I believe some serious modifications need to be done, though I question if it can ever be sustainable as presented.  The minority report posed some compelling reasons for me and follows:

“This bill would implement a new 0.5% tax on income disguised as an insurance premium, … Under an amendment, the mandate was changed to an “opt-out,” “opt-in” program where a new employee would have to get a form notarized in order to not participate. Otherwise the new employee would automatically be enrolled. The bill fails to address how existing employees are handled. … Kristin Smith of the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH in her report stated, “opt-ins makes programs unsustainable,” and “opt-in opt-out is unchartered territory.” Jeffrey Hayes PHD stated, “as costs climb for smaller participant pools with higher benefits, more workers may withdraw or cease to participate in ways we have not yet been able to measure or estimate, which would result in an unsustainable program.” …  There are multiple language problems with the bill. There are “retaliation” and “fraud” clauses that will certainly lead to an increase in lawsuits and associated costs. Government employees are exempted though no reason is given. … Opt-in opt-out will create the opportunity for “gaming the system,” allowing for someone to opt-in when a known elective surgery or pregnancy is planned. As an example, an individual could pay into the system around $250 in taxes, and claim over $4000 in benefits. Currently, there is nothing that prevents an employer from providing the types of benefits contained in this bill should they choose. Furthermore, the Department of Employment Security states in the fiscal note of the bill “insurance plans currently exist that would provide coverage for the types of benefits included in this legislation. The coverage is sold, on a voluntary basis, to employers who desire to provide these benefits to their employees.” The costs to businesses in time and record keeping were not addressed and add more regulation and bureaucracy to already over-burdened companies. Finally, administering this social program by the Insurance Department would require, at the peak of implementation, 45 additional employees at an estimated annual cost of $4.1 million. For all the foregoing reasons, and many others not mentioned, the minority believes that the House vote it Inexpedient to Legislate.”

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