Forced to buy health insurance?

I might have put this in GQ, but as usual, the “heavy” fora are too intense for my blood.

I have just been employed by a certain Washignton State municipality at 20 hours per week. They are forcing me to pay $200/month for health insurance through the municipality – a significant portion of my income. They say they’d allow me to opt out, if only I had proof of health insurance through a private insurer, which I don’t.

Scam? Justified? Tell me. Can an employer require health insurance as a condition of employment? Have you ever heard of this? (I’m not interested – in this thread – in arguments for or against requirements of paying for health insurance at all. Just the requirement as a condition of employment.)

I don’t know the answer, but it appears as though you can find it by contacting Washington’s Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors HelpLine.

Good luck!

I don’t know if this is all that relevant, but I will share anyway. Many (most?)colleges and universities require you to have health insurance if you are enrolled as a full-time student. If you cannot prove that you are insured through a family plan or private insurance, they sign you up for their plan and bill you for it. As far as I know, that is legal to have as a term of enrollment anyway.

Now the opinion part. Two hundred dollars a month is not a bad rate for single(?) health insurance. If you think it is then feel free to shop around and purchase your own. Is there a reason that you think you don’t need health insurance at all. That is a pretty risky gamble that will land you in a world of hurt if you gamble wrong. I am still young and health insurance has saved my ass and my life in the past 2 years. I never thought it would happen to me either but that is the best money I ever spent.

Now a tip: You could find out what the minimum requirement for health insurance is from your employer. If you are convinced that you don’t need much coverage, you may be able to just buy catastrophic health insurance that only pays when you medical bills exceed X amount (usually several thousand dollars). These may be much cheaper than the plan your employer offers and it may get you out of the reequirement.

Thanks Shayna, I will check out that helpline.

It’s really the principle of the thing; they refuse to let me work more than 20 hours per week, then they ding me a significant percentage of my salary for insurance I don’t have a choice about buying. (I do have the choice of insuring myself privately, though, which cost me $60/month the last time I did it - catastrophic only. My employer’s insurance is a luxurious comprehensive policy.) I was getting bigger paychecks when I was on Unemployment, and at this point I wish I hadn’t answered the phone the day I was offered this job.

As far as the gamble of being uninsured – my net worth is a large negative number, so I’m really not worried about the financial disaster of a health crisis. If I get hit by a bus and live, I’ll be declaring bankruptcy. The State can treat my injuries or not, as it chooses.

I dunno. The whole “forced” insurance thing just doesn’t sit right with me. There’s something very “big brother-y” about it.

I don’t understand how that can be legal. I can understand them paying for it, but if you can’t afford it, how in the hell can they force you to pay for it? I’d walk. Just on general principles.

Requiring health insurance on a part-timer? Very strange. Most retail-type places like to keep their workers to part-time (less than 30 hours a week) so they won’t have to offer insurance. It’s very hard to find a full-time job in my company at the store level because they don’t want to offer benefits.

That is the part that I am not quite getting too. Is this insurance subsidized by the employer? At $200 a month for a single, it doesn’t sound like it is or, if so, very little. That means that they are forcing you to pay for your own benefits with no help from them. I have no idea what their reasoning is but I doubt that it is illegal. I would just bail on the job and find another one if it was me.

Scam? No. Group health insurance is usually cheaper than you could get on your own as an individual.

Justified? From the city’s point of view, yes. It’s cheaper for the city to have you well than to have you sick (let’s face it, uninsured people tend to stay sick and “tough it out” rather than go to a doctor.)

Can they do it? They’re doing it, and that answers that.

The upshot is, they’re paying you $200 a month less than it seems they are, because it goes to mandatory insurance. The city, faced with a desire to keep you well, has chosen to do it at your expense. It’s not a pretty reality.

You remain free to run for office and change it. You’re free to find a different job, but as long as you work there, that’s the box you’re in.

It is subsidized; the $200 is only a portion of the real cost. I’ll admit, it’s actually great insurance at a heavily discounted price, but it’s the lack of choice in the matter that bugs me. Also the fact that I was given false information when offered the job; I was told it would be up to me whether or not to buy into the group policy.