Add Accuracy and Drop Judgment: Use “Shared Responsibility Payment”

With one minor exception, I was delighted to read Emily Maltby’s and Sarah E. Needleman’s thoughtful article* in the Wall Street Journal on April 8, 2013: “Some Small Businesses Opt for the Health-Care Penalty.”

The minor exception and my feedback: let’s use the government’s own language of “Shared Responsibility Payment” instead of “Penalty” to describe the fee for not offering employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

Why use the term “shared responsibility payment?” First, it’s accurate. Second, it does not pass judgment on employers who most often are trying to do right by their employees. The “shared responsibility payment” is precisely what it sounds like – a contribution to the government in support of health coverage. In contrast, “penalty” suggests wrongdoing, which is not accurate.

The article features three employers under difficult financial circumstances who are seriously considering whether to pay the “shared responsibility payment” in exchange for opting out of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage. The three companies are:

  • Consolidated Management Company of Des Moines, IA
  • Firstaff Nursing Services of Bala Cynwyd, PA
  • Children’s Discovery Center of Toledo, OH

It turns out that these employers have a few things in common:

  1. They’re bigger than 50 employees, meaning they’re considered “large” by federal insurance standards, and are therefore exposed to the “shared responsibility payment”
  2. Most of their employees have low-to-average incomes
  3. They’re struggling to compete in tough markets

In the Wall Street Journal article, the writers highlight the challenges many U.S. companies face when it comes to healthcare coverage in 2014. In telling the three company stories, the writers provide a sympathetic view of how difficult the situation is for the CEOs, and clarify that covering the “share responsibility payment” is a perfectly reasonably approach in certain circumstances.

Here at Benefitter, we recognize that for many employers, both the organization and employees may be better off without employer-sponsored healthcare insurance. But we also know that it’s a tough decision to make and a tricky transition for workers to begin purchasing insurance on the consumer market. That’s why Benefitter provides software solutions for employers to understand their options and establish a plan, reimburse their employees to “make them whole,” and help guide their employees to the consumer market.

To learn how Benefitter can help you and your employees navigate healthcare reform, visit our website at


*Wall Street Journal, Emily Maltby and Sarah E. Needleman Article:
Some Small Businesses Opt for the Health-Care Penalty, April 8, 2013