Work & Employment Down, Sleep & Socializing Up: Obamacare’s “Slacker Mandate”

sleeping-womanWhat with Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges unraveling pretty quickly, Americans might be excused for having forgotten one of Obamacare’s first intrusions: The “slacker mandate.” This was the provision that requires employer-based health plans to cover “children” on their parents’ plans until they are 26.

It took effect in 2010. The results are in, according to a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research:

If, as suggested by prior work, the provision reduced the amount of time young adults work, the question arises, what have these adults done with the extra time?

The extra time has gone into socializing, and to a lesser extent, into education and job search. Availability of insurance and change in work time appear to have increased young adults’ subjective well-being, enabling them to spend time on activities they view as more meaningful than those they did before insurance became available.

(Gregory Dolman & Dhaval Dave, “It’s About Time: Effects of the Affordable Care Act Coverage Mandate on Time Use,” NBER Working Paper No. 21725, November 2015.)

No other law requires parents to take care of their kids until they are 26. But health care is different, as we all know. The slacker mandate increased premiums one to three percent, and is associated with the introduction of more nuanced employer-based benefits, according to research discussed by Bruce Japsen.

A couple of things to note: The costs of the slacker mandate were not socialized. The entire cost of the mandate is borne by the parents, through increased premiums. Pre-Obamacare, employer-based benefits tended to have three tiers of premium: Single, couple, or family. It did not matter how many kids you had (because covering kids is so inexpensive it is not worth the administrative hassle of adding a surcharge for each kid). The slacker mandate changed that, and more employer-based plans now charge a premium for each dependent.

The Washington Post has reproduced some of the charts. Here are some examples:

  • Socializing has increased about 30 minutes per day, among 23 to 25-year olds.
  • Sleeping has gone up about 10 minutes a day, among 19-25-year olds.
  • Work has gone down about 20 minutes a day, among 23-25-year olds.
  • Exercise has gone up about 10 minutes a day, among 23-25-year olds.

Well, I am glad they are staying fit.

Look, there was never a law preventing parents from paying for their kids’ health insurance after they reach majority. Mandating parents pay so these young adults can spend more “meaningful” time socializing instead of working will likely have long-term consequences to their earnings and fulfillment greater than the benefits of Obamacare.


Comments (14)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    Newsflash! Research shows that if the parents allow it, after college graduation some young adult males will move into their parents basement, redecorate it to look like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, and spend the next 10 years living like a man-child. They will fill their days watching Star Trek reruns, watching old Star Trek DVDs, play online videogames and wonder why they have a hard time meeting women willing to move into the basement with them.

    • Buster says:

      What’s wrong with that? Besides, this was happening even before the new health care law.

      • Katherine says:

        I agree.

        Not all millenials are lazy. Although some undoubtedly live at home to avoid the real world, this is not the case for all of us. I am 23 and live at home. I also work full-time as a registered nurse at a hospital, while in graduate school. I could move out, but I am saving money so that when I finish my graduate degree in a few years, I will have a solid financial foundation.
        I don’t disagree that some young adult men choose to live like a “man-child”. But I do resent the overarching assumption that my generation is entirely lazy and afraid of work.

    • Ron Greiner says:

      That’s pretty harsh Devon. Young people have been particularly hit hard by Obamacare and the weak, weak, weak economy. They can’t find jobs that are over 30-hours-week because of the high cost of employer-based health insurance and companies hiring part timers.

      Yet, these poor young people pay Medicare tax on every dollar earned so fat cat multi-millionaires can have their Medicare. Socialism is tough on young people and a lot of them have quit getting married and having babies because they can’t afford it. Don’t we need young people to be successful to have the next generation of tax payers?

    • Pjohnson says:


  2. Barry Carol says:

    Sounds like BS to me.

  3. Big Truck Joe says:

    If my current wife were on her parents health insurance when we were dating and in our 20’s, I would have gotten her pregnant then and made her parents pay the huge deductible! Other than the number of grown men living in their parents basement, I would like to know if any young women of prime child bearing age are getting pregnant whilst they are on mommy and daddies health insurance? How much more insurance do 20somethings use because they have parental coverage vs those who have insurance through their crappy burger-flippin or latte servin Obama economy job?

    • Kathy RN says:

      My daughter got married at 21 and had to be dropped from our health insurance because of the marriage. Talk about a marriage penalty! We then paid for her and her husband’s insurance until they both graduated from college, as a gift. They worked to pay for college themselves and graduated with no debts. Healthcare and College were less expensive back then 2010.

  4. Walleye says:

    Just reading the above comments on health care for children seems a bit much, my health insurance cost over $1900.00 per month for a family of 4 and this has a large deductible, the cost for children are $400.00 in which they may go to the doctor once a year which I have to pay. Its a bit ridiculous don’t you think?

    • Ron Greiner says:

      Walleye, I’m sure that Blue Cross of Florida CEO Pat Geraty who makes $6.7 million a year would prefer you to be paying $2,900 a month. Pat is from Minnesota and he had Blue Cross of Florida pay over $1 million just to move him to Florida. That must of been a lot of trucks.

      I’m from Iowa and we say you can move the top counties of Iowa into Minnesota and double up the IQ of both states.

  5. Larry says:

    “No other law requires parents to take care of their kids until they are 26.” Does ACA? I thought it was an option.

    Further, I’d change ACA to allow kids to stay on their parents’ plan (in their risk pool) forever. Yes, it reduces work incentives, but all health care subsidies do that.

    I also wonder about the comparison group. I’d like to see the comparison be to young people who get heavily subsidized ACA insurance via the exchanges,