Sound Progress

Research and insights from Puget Sound Sage.

Blame Game on Obamacare Masks Intent to Shift Cost of Health Care to Taxpayers

The Washington Policy Center (WPC) this week takes aim at Obamacare, blaming it for the new-found drive of corporate retailers to cut their part-time workers off of healthcare. Roger Stark calls union support for the new health care policy “ironic” and asserts that “the law they supported is hurting their own members.”

His case in point is the strike vote of 30,000 grocery workers who are negotiating with big chains like Safeway and Kroger for fair wages and benefits. The WPC editorial claims that worker dissatisfaction with the grocers’ proposals to cut healthcare for part-time workers derives directly from the Affordable Care Act (ACA.)

What WPC seems to have missed is that the grocery chains have already taken the proposal to drop part-time workers from company health coverage off the table in their negotiations with unions (though at what level they will fund the program remains in dispute.) They have done this without any changes in national policy that would suddenly absolve the responsibility for employers to insure their workers. Yet, none of these corporations have simultaneously announced their intention to go out of business as a result.

We have already posted on why the blame Obamacare game is a lame excuses strategy. It is a ploy to obscure the fact that giant retailers (not unions) are making decisions that hurt workers. While they publicly claim Obamacare is making them do it, they are really doing it because it’s so much more profitable to shift the cost of providing workers on to tax-payers and the new health care exchanges.

It’s time to cut through all the rhetorical posturing. The ACA is not forcing businesses to cut full-time workers down to part-time status, or drop part-time workers from their health insurance coverage.

The federal mandate is a policy that applies a fee (a tax) for not providing health insurance for employees who work full time. It defines full-time employment as 30 or more hours a week. Dropping worker hours to get around the requirement is an attempt to exploit what amounts to be a tax loophole. Big companies rarely pass up this kind of opportunity. There is nothing new about that.

When corporations ask the federal government and tax-payers to pick up the cost of providing worker benefits so that they can attract and maintain workers, they are asking the government to subsidize the cost of doing business. That is corporate welfare.

The real flaw with the ACA is not how it forces companies to hurt workers, but how easy it made off-loading labor costs onto tax-payers.

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