Obamacare: “Losing on Both Ends”

When trying to sell the American people on their plans for health care reform in February of 2010, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “This [health care] bill is not only about the health security of America.  It’s about jobs.  In its life, it will create 4 million jobs — 400,000 jobs almost immediately.”

Any student of history knows that when governmental policy requires you to spend more money, your behavior will change.  But apparently when the Democrats passed Obamacare, they did not understand that if you lower the number of hours necessary to qualify for a “full-time job,” tens of thousands of people would have their hours cut or their jobs eliminated.

Now, four years later, we are seeing reports of job losses or hours being cut as employers work to comply with Obamacare regulations.  But as Politico recently reported, “… despite a report from the Congressional Budget Office released Feb. 4 predicting fewer people would be working” as a result of Obamacare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently told reporters that, “There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job loss related to the Affordable Care Act.”

If the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cannot get Administration officials to acknowledge this issue, perhaps the New York Times can.

In a February 20 story entitled “Public Sector Cuts Part-Time Shifts to Bypass Insurance Law,” correspondent Robert Pear wrote, “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.”

Among the examples Mr. Pear cites:

•  “In Connecticut, as in many states, significant numbers of part-time school employees work more than 30 hours a week and do not receive health benefits.”
•  “In Medina, Ohio, about 30 miles south of Cleveland, Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the city had lowered the limit for part-time employees to 29 hours a week, from 35.  Workers’ wages were reduced accordingly, he said.”
• “Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32,” which impacted prison guards and staff at the county’s 911 call center.
• “In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period,” which we noted in our August 5, 2013 column.  When I asked Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), about this, she said they had heard of “isolated incidents.”  That was notwithstanding the fact that Virginia’s policy would impact an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 Commonwealth of Virginia employees.

I acknowledge that some will benefit from certain provisions in the health care law.  But I believe that situations like those mentioned above are not “isolated,” and that far more will be harmed than will be benefitted.  Most of us know people who have lost their doctor, lost their insurance plan, had premiums increase, had benefits cut, and/or whose work has been cut, eliminated, or impacted.

“The Affordable Care Act, rather than making health care affordable for adjunct faculty members, is making it more unaffordable,” William J. Lipkin, an adjunct professor at New Jersey’s Union County College, told Mr. Pear.  “Colleges are not giving us access to health care, and our hours are being cut, which means our income is being cut.  We are losing on both ends.”

When it comes to health care, we need common sense policies that improve access to affordable, quality health care, encourage job creation, and foster economic growth.

– Congressman Morgan Griffith