October 10 2012

Olive Garden: Obamacare Forcing Us to Make Full-Time Workers Go Part-Time

Charlotte Hays

Politicians are often praised for providing a new benefit. But of course that is not how it works. What they really do is vote to make other people provide the desired benefit.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for example, doesn’t so much provide universal health insurance as order others--people known as employers--to provide it.

Sometimes the politicians don’t give sufficient thought to how providing the desired benefit will affect those known as employers. Indeed, members of Congress seem to act as if they can wave a magic wand and—presto!—they have “given” us universal health care. Let somebody else work out the details!

It appears, however, many American employers won't be able to provide Obamacare-mandated benefits without being harmed economically. To stave off ruin, could we agree that it is right for these people known as employers to make adjustments? Sometimes, alas, to prevent closing their doors, employers will decide to take drastic actions that are not at all good for the people known as employees.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for any business, regardless of the precariousness of the enterprise, that employs 50 or more people not to provide health insurance.

So how is that going to work out? Here is a report from the Orlando Sentinel:

 In an experiment apparently aimed at keeping down the cost of health-care reform, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in at least a few Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and LongHorn Steakhouses.

Darden said the test is taking place in "a select number" of restaurants in four markets, including Central Florida, but would not give details. The company said there has been no decision made about expanding it.

In an emailed statement, Darden said staffing changes are "just one of the many things we are evaluating to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the health care regulations and we simply do not have enough information to make any decisions at this time."

Analysts say many other companies, including the White Castle hamburger chain, are considering employing fewer full-timers because of key features of the Affordable Care Act scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Under that law, large companies must provide affordable health insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week.

If they do not, the companies can face fines of up to $3,000 for each employee who then turns to an exchange — an online marketplace — for insurance.

Note that the story says that this is “an experiment apparently aimed at keeping down the cost of health care.” But it might also be considered an experiment aimed at keeping businesses afloat and thereby supplying employment.

Next time somebody says that the late Senator Ted Kennedy or President Obama have "given" us universal health care, just remember this: but they didn’t write the checks for it. They simply ordered somebody else to do that part of it.  

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