What The Numbers Really Show: ObamaCare and the Part-Time Economy

Published on October 13, 2013

By ANDREW PUZDER, For The Wall Street Journal

There are times when the Obama administration makes statements so disconnected from economic reality that you wonder if any White House official has talked with anyone in business. A case in point: the administration’s mantra that ObamaCare’s definition of full-time employment as 30 or more hours per week had no effect on employers’ hiring practices.

We heard it Monday night on “The Daily Show” when Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told Jon Stewart: “At least the economists, not anecdotal folks, but economists, say there is absolutely no evidence that part-time work is going up. In fact, it’s going down.” We’ve been hearing that sort of thing for months—in July, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that data failed to support “the proposition that businesses are not hiring full-time employees because of the Affordable Care Act.” The president himself added to the wonder on Sept. 26, stating that “there’s no widespread evidence” that ObamaCare is hurting jobs.

As the CEO of a company that has been dealing with ObamaCare for over three years, I’d like to set the record straight: The evidence that ObamaCare is having a negative impact on hiring is unequivocal, abundant and consistent with common sense.

The White House has been given cover on this matter by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, which in September declared that “of the increase in employment since the Affordable Care Act became law, more than 9 out of 10 positions have been full-time.”

While ObamaCare “became law” on March 23, 2010, a legitimate analysis of its impact wouldn’t start on that date. No one understood the legislation at the time. Few people understand it today. The Department of Health and Human Services had issued no regulatory guidance. Businesses don’t change their hiring plans before understanding what changes they need to make and are compelled to make them.

ObamaCare’s future was uncertain in 2010-11. The Supreme Court didn’t rule on the law’s constitutionality until June 2012. The electorate didn’t resolve the issue of whether Mitt Romney might become president and lead the effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act until November 2012. Pending resolution of these issues, employers were disinclined to make major adjustments on matters that they were unsure would ever need adjusting.

In any event, ObamaCare’s mandate that employers provide health insurance coverage to employees who work 30 or more hours per week wasn’t set to take effect until Jan. 1, 2014. To determine whether an employee was working 30 or more hours per week, ObamaCare provides a “look back period” of three to 12 months. With a maximum one-year “look back,” employers had little incentive to significantly increase part-time employment until Jan. 1, 2013.

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