Obamacare critics have been pointing to several companies’ claims that the law is forcing them to cut their part-time workers’ hours as proof that the health law is bad for businesses and employees. But a new report finds that employers were cutting health benefits and workers’ hours long before Obamacare was even an idea.
According to data compiled by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), large employers have increasingly been turning to part-time workers for their labor. Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of workers employed in part-time jobs increased from 16.7 percent to 22.2 percent of the work force. That means that workers’ hours have also been declining, since using more part-time workers lets companies scale back on how many hours those employees can work.
But these companies’ cuts haven’t been limited to workers’ hours — they’ve been cutting back on part-time employees’ health benefits, too. During the same four year period, part-time workers experienced a 15.7 percent decline in the likelihood of having health coverage through their jobs:
As the graph demonstrates, that trend existed even before the recession, and has only gotten worse since then.
Cost-cutting at the expense of employees’ benefits and wages certainly isn’t new behavior for large companies. Even employers with full time workers have been shifting the cost of medical care onto their employees through the increasing use of high-deductible and bare bones health plans — something that industry experts expect to continue. Over the last decade, average annual health insurance premiums rose by approximately 97 percent — but workers’ contributions to those premiums increased by an outsized 102 percent in the same time span.
This reflects the dangers of a health care system in which employers are the major providers of Americans’ health coverage. Recent history suggests that companies would have continued slashing workers’ benefits and hours anyway — Obamacare has just given them a convenient excuse.