July 24, 2013

Some lose hours, get no insurance under health law

To avoid paying for coverage, employers push workers just below the 'full-time' threshold.


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"We are seeing no systematic evidence that the Affordable Care Act is having an adverse impact on job growth or the number of hours employees are working," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. "The law is helping make health insurance coverage more affordable, which supports job growth."

While a number of private businesses cut worker hours this year because of the health care law, others have been loathe to do it because of fears of public blowback, said Jared Pope, a Texas consultant whose clients include local governments and businesses. Governments have been more open because they must make their decisions publicly, he said.

He estimated that seven of his 62 clients had capped hours, and another 18 were considering it. Those that took the difficult step of curbing part-time hours are not likely to reverse course, only to have to reinstate the limit next year, Pope said.

"They kind of somewhat ticked people off already," he said. "They don't want to undo it and become a good guy now, only to do it all over again to be the bad guy."

Part of the dilemma lies in the definition of "full-time," which diverges from the industry standard of 40 hours per week. Advocates say the 30-hour bar was supposed to discourage employers from simply shaving a few minutes off a full-time worker's hours to skirt the law. But it turns out that "an awful lot of people work less than 40 hours a week," said Timothy Jost, a health policy expert and consumer advocate.

Pace, the music professor, said it will be a challenge to make ends meet, even with the odd jobs he does to supplement his college income, which has been cut to $17,000 a year. He gives bass and guitar lessons in his Alexandria, Va., home, plays live gigs around the area and runs a nonprofit called the D.C. Jazz Composers Collective.

He argues that the state should have recognized the contribution of workers like himself and coughed up the extra money to offer insurance. But since that didn't happen, said Pace, 34, he would have preferred to keep the status quo, rather than to end up with reduced hours and an $8,000 pay cut.

"We devote all of our time and love and hours to teaching our adjunct classes," he said. "This isn't right on any level."


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