State And Local Governments Blame Obamacare For Cutting Worker Hours

02/21/2014 04:27 pm ET | Updated Feb 21, 2014
  • Harry Bradford Associate Editor, HuffPost Business and HuffPost Small Business
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Conservatives claim Obamacare is a socialist boondoggle that will bloat the federal government. Ironically, state and local governments claim Obamacare is making them tighten their belts.

Part-time public-sector workers like substitute teachers, prison guards, and police dispatchers risk having their hours cut in an effort by state and local governments to dodge the Affordable Care Act's "employer mandate" to give such workers health benefits, the New York Times reports.

“Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, told the NYT, referring to city employees.

Under President Obama's signature health-care reform law, employers are required to provide insurance for part-time employees working more than 30 hours per week. Many government employers say they simply can’t afford it, according to the NYT, and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead.

Some private-sector employers have also threatened to cut part-time workers’ hours in an effort to skirt the health-care law. Companies such as Regal Entertainment and Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants, as well as certain small business owners, claim to have looked to cutting worker hours as a way of reducing health-care costs.

Still, Obamacare's "employer mandate" doesn't actually take effect until next year. Even then, it will not apply to all employers. And the Federal Reserve, the Congressional Budget Office and other analysts consistently report that there is no evidence Obamacare is increasing part-time work in any measurable way.

The public sector, however, might have fewer options for making up the costs of expanding health coverage compared to private businesses, who might be able to pass those costs on to the consumer.

“We cannot go out and raise the price of our product to assist us,” Les Huddle, superintendent of the Lafayette School Corporation, told the Courier-Journal last June.

Public-sector workers, such as adjunct professors at community colleges, for example, could feel twofold pain from their hours getting cut.

“Colleges are not giving us access to health care, and our hours are being cut, which means our income is being cut,” adjunct professor William J. Lipkin told NYT. “We are losing on both ends.”

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