February 24 2014
ObamaCare 29ers: Public Sector Workers Feel The Pinch
Patrice J. Lee
In response to the damning Congressional Budget Office report predicting millions of American job losses due to ObamaCare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed recently, “There is absolutely no evidence… that there is any job-loss related to the Affordable Care Act.” Facts prove her wrong.
Even if workers hold on to their jobs, what about the pay cuts they face from fewer hours as employers look for ways to circumvent the employer mandate? That mandate requires employers provide healthcare coverage to those who work more than 30 hours or face a penalty. The President, Sebelius, and the Administration have been silent on this issue, but they may be forced to address this too as reports are surfacing about public sector workers being affected.
State and local officials are making rock-and-hard-place decisions about benefits in light of ObamaCare. There’s a growing trend toward cutting part-time workers to below 29 hours to avoid providing them healthcare coverage. As one official describes it, he must either layoff five reading teachers or pay for the benefits of one substitute teacher.
The kinds of workers who will be affected are those who work part-time but do not receive benefits such as substitute teachers, bus drivers, athletic coaches, school custodians, cafeteria workers, part-time professors, police dispatchers, and prison guards. In some cases, those with multiple part-time jobs, such as a guy who is both a bus driver and basketball coach, are being asked to entirely give up one of them. These are the new “29ers.”
The New York Times reports:
Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say.
The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession, could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim that it is creating a drain on the economy.
President Obama has twice delayed enforcement of the health care law’s employer mandate, which would subject larger employers to tax penalties if they do not offer insurance coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week, on average. But many public employers have already adopted policies, laws or regulations to make sure workers stay under that threshold.
Even after the administration said this month that it would ease coverage requirements for larger employers, public employers generally said they were keeping the restrictions on work hours because their obligation to provide health insurance, starting in 2015, would be based on hours worked by employees this year.
It is not entirely clear how private employers will respond, but as some government officials point out, businesses at least have the option of passing along some of the additional costs to consumers.
Reading stories from local superintendents such as Daniel Tanoos in Vigo County, Ind., who must hold down work hours of school bus drivers by reducing field trips for children and cutting back on transportation to athletic events, is a reminder that there are unintended consequences to public action. This means students will lose access to enriching experiences like trips to the science museum or the symphony that augment their educations.
The harmful effects of ObamaCare continue to ripple across our communities. There are those directly impacted such as those who lost their healthcare coverage, whose hours are being held down and income cut, who have a disincentive to work, or who will not be hired because employers are saving their cash instead of expanding. Then there are secondary and tertiary targets of ObamaCare, like students losing their sports coaches and community college students with less course options.
To many ObamaCare sounded like an egalitarian idea that would provide healthcare access to all Americans, instead what we’ve seen so far are job losses, reduced income, higher costs, and a drag on our economy.
Delaying the pain to employers and workers until after the 2014 midterms and 2016 elections may be a strategy that still won’t work for the Administration and ObamaCare advocates, as employers – whether private or public sector- don’t make their decisions on the fly. Americans are feeling real pain from ObamaCare and they have no interest from this Administration to address it.