WSW: The Affordable Care Act And Part-Time Workers

Sep 22, 2016

Workers in the restaurant industry were among the most likely to work more than 30 hours a week without health care benefits
Credit Scott, Sanchez, Wikimedia Commons

There are many controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Economists at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research examined the implications of Obamacare’s “employer mandate.” 


Researchers Susan Houseman and Marcus Dillender joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans to discuss their research. They focused on the requirement that employers with 50 or more employees have to provide quality health care or face a penalty. The ACA also requires that benefit has to be offered to companies working more than 30 hours a week.

Houseman says the idea of reform was to give more workers access to health care. But it was passed at a time when the economy was depressed. Dillender says the retail and food service sectors are the most likely to have employees working 30-40 hours a week that aren’t being offered health insurance right now. 

The study looks at whether companies are cutting the hours of workers, so they can be classified as part-time, rather than full-time. Houseman says Hawaii provided a “natural experiment” because it’s the one state where a much stronger employer mandate was in place before the ACA went into effect. She says before the mandate the rates of part-time employment were similar in Hawaii and the rest of country. But she says there was change after Obamacare was passed. 

But Dillender says there are immediate short term-effects, and he says the long-term results could be different. He also says the study focused on involuntary part-time employment, but he says health care exchanges and other options may allow people to work part-time if they want too, instead of working full-time simply to earn health care benefits. Houseman says the study found 500,000 to 2-million people are working part-time involuntarily. But she says it’s also important to consider how many people got health care coverage as part of mandate.

Image from Wikimedia Commons