Public Sector Workers Hit Hard By Obamacare Mandates
February 22, 2014 - 7:01 am
This is not another “unintended consequence” of Obamacare. The cuts in hours for part time workers, whether in the public or private sectors, was predicted by opponents of the ACA all along, and dismissed by the law’s supporters as “scare mongering.”
In reality, it was a no-brainer. The delay in the employer mandate means we won’t have a good handle on how many full time positions will become part time, nor will we know how many part time hours will be cut to get the employee under the 30 hour a week threshold for Obamacare coverage.
But that’s by design, of course. No news is good news for Democrats if the bad news can be put off until after the mid terms.
Public employees are being affected now because local government’s obligation to supply health insurance to employees will be based on hours worked this year.
Mark D. Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn., and a board member of the American Association of School Administrators, said in an interview that the new health care law was having “unintended consequences for school systems across the nation.”
In Connecticut, as in many states, significant numbers of part-time school employees work more than 30 hours a week and do not receive health benefits. “Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees?” Mr. Benigni asked. “If I had to cut five reading teachers to pay for benefits for substitute teachers, I’m not sure that would be best for our students.”
In Medina, Ohio, about 30 miles south of Cleveland, Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the city had lowered the limit for part-time employees to 29 hours a week, from 35. Workers’ wages were reduced accordingly, he said.
“Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Mr. Hanwell, a Republican, said. The city’s 120 part-time employees include office clerks, sanitation workers, park inspectors and police dispatchers.
Mr. Hanwell said that new rules issued by the Internal Revenue Service this month did not address the city’s fundamental concerns about the cost of providing health insurance.
Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32. Dan Vogler, the Republican chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said the cuts affected prison guards and emergency service personnel at the county’s 911 call center.
In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period. Thousands of part-time state employees had been working more than that, according to the state personnel agency.
Virginia officials said they could not extend coverage to part-time wage workers because of the expense. Health benefits cost the state an average of more than $11,000 a year per employee.
Forget the impact on local budgets, what about the employees affected? For tens of thousands of families, it means significantly less income — perhaps the difference between covering expenses and not being able to make ends meet. It may force a significant number of these part time employees who are losing income to apply for federal benefits like food stamps and other assistance.
There are currently more than 7 million part time workers who have either had their hours cut or can’t find a full time job. How many of those workers will be affected when the employer mandate takes hold? It’s a pretty good bet that most of those workers who had their hours cut back to part time won’t see an increase that would put them over 30 hours a week — not unless the economy picks up substantially and companies can afford more full time help. It’s a signature element of Obamacare that a slowing economy will push more people into part time work, thus denying them health insurance they might have received otherwise.