How Obamacare Will Help Extend Health Care To Part-Time Workers

The vast majority of part-time workers in the U.S. don’t have employer-based health insurance, according to a new study from the ADP Research Institute — an issue the health care reform law will help address once it is fully in effect.

The majority of Americans access health insurance through their jobs. But the results from ADP’s study highlight the fact that the current employer-based model often leaves low-wage workers, and particularly those who work fewer than 40 hours a week, in a coverage gap. Only a small percentage of part-time employees are offered health insurance through work, and many of them can’t afford to pay into those plans — but they also typically can’t afford to purchase insurance plans on their own, either.

Fortunately, several Obamacare provisions — including extending Medicaid coverage to additional low-income Americans, providing Americans with subsidies to help them purchase health care on state-based insurance markets, and requiring employers with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance — will start to eliminate some of those coverage gaps and help part-time workers better afford health coverage:

The ADP Research Institute analyzed data from about 300 large employers covering 2 million workers and dependents. Among the employers studied, 23 percent of their workers are part-time but only 8 percent get company-sponsored health benefits. Just 15 percent of part-time workers are even offered health insurance.Cost is the main reason part-time workers don’t enroll in company health plans when they’re available, especially among those who earn less than $30,000 a year, said Tim Clifford, the president of ADP Benefit Services. That group is due to receive the largest financial assistance under health care reform.

“Part-time coverage has always been pretty low,” Clifford said. “There’s no question that the law will extend coverage to millions of Americans,” he said. But it also will create some disruption within the realm of employer-sponsored health benefits as companies decide whether to open their insurance plans to more workers or devise strategies to avoid Obamacare’s new rules and costs, he said.

ADP’s study builds upon previous research that confirms the health care reform law will help low-wage workers afford the health coverage they need. Particularly in recent years, as health care costs have been skyrocketing while workers’ wages are stagnating, increasing numbers of Americans worry about being able to access and afford insurance coverage.

But as Clifford noted, that hasn’t stopped several extremely profitable companies from trying to get around Obamacare and continue denying their workers basic health benefits. The restaurant industry, which often employs low-wage and part-time workers, has been particularly resistant to Obamacare’s regulation that requires businesses to ensure their employees will be able to afford health care.