July 29, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hourly Mandate Prompts a Full-Time Work Debate

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Bridenstine says a business in his Oklahoma district plans to cut its workforce from 57 to 49 employees to avoid the employer health insurance mandate.

For opponents of the 2010 health care law, this has become one of the most popular talking points: The mandates on business will force Americans out of full-time jobs and into part-time work.

The claim rests on the law’s requirement that midsize and large employers offer health insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours a week or pay a fine. That argument has gotten a workout in recent weeks as Capitol Hill Republicans have refused to fund the government unless Democrats agree to broad changes to the law. It’s also found support among some labor unions, which worry their members will be pushed out of full-time jobs.

The problem with that argument is that it’s very hard to prove. The number and share of American workers who would like full-time jobs but who are stuck working part-time, which spiked during the recession, has actually been going down since 2010, when the law was passed. And although there has been some anecdotal evidence of employers shifting workers to part-time — stories that Republican lawmakers have latched onto — there’s no evidence that those stories represent a broader economic trend.

That hasn’t stopped labor officials and Republicans on Capitol Hill from predicting a dramatic affect on full-time work as a result of the law.

“Obamacare is hurting millions of people,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a Sunday CNN interview. “It’s killing their jobs. It’s forcing them into part-time work.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., pointed to companies in his district as an example during a news conference last month.

“Just recently I talked to a business,” he said. “They’ve got 57 employees. They’re trying to get down to 49. Other businesses are moving full-time workers to part-time workers.”

And in July the heads of three major labor unions wrote to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada urging changes to the law, saying it would “destroy the foundation of the 40-hour workweek that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

Under the law, employers with 50 or more employees must offer health insurance to all workers employed for more than 30 hours a week or face a penalty of $2,000 per worker.

The “employer mandate” was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but the Obama administration delayed implementation by one year, a move that Republicans have called a giveaway to big business.

While there may yet be a surge in involuntary part-time work once the mandate starts, evidence suggests the impact will be relatively limited.

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