Some 14% of organizations already have reduced hours for part-timers, and another 6% plan to do so. However, 91% of organizations have not considered reducing employee hours for full-time employees, and 90% said they have not considered reducing the overall number of employees as a result of the ACA employer mandate according to this new survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
For workers who are on the job at least 30 hours per week, companies must offer health coverage or be hit with a financial penalty. The Obama administration twice delayed enforcement of this requirement, but it finally took effect in January for companies with at least 100 workers, and it is set to start next year for companies with between 50 and 99 workers. (The rule will not apply to small businesses with fewer than 50 workers.)
Some Republicans have urged changing the rule so the cutoff is 40 hours a week, rather than 30. The House has passed a bill to do that; it’s now heading to the Senate, though the White House has pledged to veto it.
The Health Care Reform Survey — 2015 Update, which was just released at SHRM’s Employment Law & Legislative Conference, found that half of the companies surveyed had a health care plan already in place that was "more robust" than what is required by the Affordable Care Act.
“As organizations learned more about the law, they found that their coverage levels were already the same or more than what the law required, minimizing the adjustments that some anticipated employers would need to make when the ACA was created,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs.
Here are some of the other highlights from the SHRM survey:
• 54% of employers require employees to work 30 hours a week to be eligible for coverage, an increase from 44% in 2014 and 39% in 2013. But 26% of organizations require employees to work more than 30 hours a week to be eligible. “Some employers actually might choose for economic reasons to take a penalty rather than make this change,” Esen said.
• Two-thirds of organizations (66%) believed their organization offered the same level of health care benefits as before the ACA was enacted.
• About three-quarters (77%) of respondents said their health care coverage costs increased from 2014 to 2015, and 6% reported a decrease.
• About three out of five organizations have made changes to their health care coverage in the last year.
• 54% offered alternative health care plans such as health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts this year, compared to 37% in 2013. In addition, 13% of respondents say they planned to offer alternatives in the future. “Organizations are going outside of health care plans such as HMOs and PPOs to consider plans and approaches that are affordable while still providing solid coverage,” Esen said.
• 20% had health plans with grandfathered status in the past but have since dropped the status. Of the organizations that ended their grandfathered status, 19% said it would have cost more to keep the status than to change plans. “When health care reform was new, employers tried to keep their grandfathered status,” Esen said. “But now that they understand the law and its implications, employers want to come out from under that umbrella to make changes, especially if these changes lead to lower costs.”
• More than one-half (53%) said they would not be affected by an excise tax on high-cost benefits that takes effect in 2018 or are taking action to avoid the tax.
What other data shows
The Tampa Bay Times Politifact.com did this piece in January that examined the impact the Affordable Care Act is having on part-time workers.
One analysis offered hard estimates of how many workers saw their hours cut. It was written by Ben Casselman, the chief economics writer at the website fivethirtyeight.com.
When Casselman looked at the data, he found that the proportion of part-time workers working just below 30 hours a week had been rising for about two years, while the share working just over 30 hours was falling. Here’s a chart that accompanied his story:
Overall, Casselman concluded that "the health law has likely led a few hundred thousand workers to see their hours cut or capped. That’s small in the context of an economy with 150 million workers. But it isn’t a minor issue for those workers. Most of them are among the economy’s most vulnerable: low-wage, part-time workers who likely have few other options."
The Tampa Bay Times concluded their piece saying that several of the economists they interviewed told them that focusing only on the negative aspects of Obamacare-inspired changes in working hours painted an incomplete picture. "While it’s true that the law hurts employees who would like to work longer hours, the law also aids unemployed workers who are only too happy to work in newly created part-time jobs, as well as older workers who would like to retire but haven’t yet reached Medicare age and individuals who prefer part-time work and no longer have to take full-time jobs in order to secure health insurance."