State and local governments are trying to deny their part-time employees healthcare benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
These workers include prison guards, police dispatchers and substitute teachers.
President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week.
Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead. Among those states affected:
- “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with the New York Times.
- Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.
- 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.
President Obama and those who helped craft the Affordable Care Act may be surprised at what has happened. But they shouldn’t be.
It was, in fact, entirely predictable. Consider the following:
When William J. Casey wa a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.
Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.
His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.
He quickly learned that businessmen neither understood nor welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to reform American capitalism.
Businessmen didn’t want legal commentary. Instead, they wanted to know: “What must we do to achieve minimum compliance with the law?”
In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?
Fifty years later, Casey would bring a similar mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for President Ronald Reagan.
He was presiding over the CIA when it deliberately violated Congress’ ban on funding the “Contras,” the right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.
But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).
It’s very much alive among the American business and political communities as President Obama seeks to give medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.
For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, a company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage.
Obama prides himself on being a tough-minded practitioner of “Chicago politics.” So it’s easy to assume that he took the “Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.
But he didn’t.
The result was predictable. And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.
Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions–and thus avoid
- providing their employees with medical insurance and
- a fine for non-compliance with the law.
Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.
One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:
- The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
- He will pass along these costs to his customers.
“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”
After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?
- Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
- Its 2012 revenues were $318.6 million, an 8.5 percent increase from 2011 revenues of $293.5 million.
- Its 2012 net income was $14.8 million, compared to its 2012 net income of $12.1 million.
Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that he claims to be, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.
To counter that, he need only have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees—regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.
This, in turn, would have provided two substantial benefits:
- All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
- Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones, since they would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”
The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.