Do Employers Need to Supply Full-Time Employees with Free Health Insurance in California?

Health insurance is far too expensive for many middle-class heads of household to afford. With the average cost of coverage for a family of four ballooning from less than $2,000 per year during the 1990s to nearly $7,000 per year as of 2012, it's safe to say that the cost of health insurance is rising at an alarming rate.

Although most political leaders and healthcare professionals agree that this is a problem, there is little agreement on potential solutions. In fact, the very mention of healthcare reform is anathema in certain political circles. Despite recent efforts to standardize health insurance coverage and ensure that the vast majority of Americans are covered, it appears unlikely that the cost of health insurance will decline at any time in the near future.

Although employer-sponsored health insurance has become spottier and more expensive, most Americans still enjoy health insurance coverage for themselves and their families through their employers. The problematic cost of health insurance makes it difficult for most employers to provide coverage free of charge. It's far more common for employees and employers to share the financial burden of policy premiums on an equitable basis. Most employers contribute one-half to two-thirds of the total value of their employees' premiums. This can substantially reduce the cost of health insurance for the covered employees.

Companies that enjoy large profit margins may be more generous with their "matching" contributions. In California, certain high-tech companies might provide free health insurance plans for some of their employees. Lucrative outfits like Google, Apple and Facebook could be among these.

Such a practice is likely to be more common among certain divisions or "pay grades" within a given company. For instance, all managers who have attained certain levels of seniority might be eligible for free health insurance at a given company. However, there's no state law that requires private companies to provide free health insurance for their full-time employees. Based on previously-settled healthcare cases, such a law would probably be challenged and struck down in court.

After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, medium-sized and large employers in California and elsewhere are required to provide some form of health insurance coverage for their full-time employees. These employers must employ over 50 workers within a 75-mile radius of their headquarters. According to the new healthcare law, any employee who works for more than 30 hours in a given week must be treated as a "full-time" employee.

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