Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

July 21, 2013

Definition of 'full time' needs to be revised

Reform also must enable economic growth

In Lafayette, Ind., a school district cut the hours of 200 support staff to no more than 29 per week. In Bangor, Maine, the school system is preparing to track and cap the number of hours worked by substitute teachers to ensure that they don’t work more than 29 hours a week.

Elsewhere, in Portland, Maine, a small business reduced a part-time employee’s hours from 35 to 29.

We are hearing reports like this from across the country. Why is this happening?

It’s happening because under the Affordable Care Act a “full-time employee” is defined as anyone working an average of 30 hours a week, rather than the traditionally accepted 40-hour work week. Employers with more than 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalents will be required to provide their employees with health insurance or potentially face a financial penalty, essentially a fine.

This rule is causing a growing number of employers to cut the hours of their workers, and according to one study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, at least 2.3 million workers are at risk. This provision of the health law is not in the best interests of the country, and it needs to change.

We think effective health-care reform should provide Americans access to quality and affordable care while also encouraging economic growth. But it is clear that the definition of a full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act is not encouraging the economy to grow and is reducing the take-home pay of more and more Americans.

For instance, a school cafeteria manager in Indiana wrote to Sen. Donnelly to report that her pay is being cut by 15 percent, and others in the same school district are taking a 25 percent pay cut per week. “For some, this is a house payment, while for others it is money that they were using to help their children who are in college try to lessen their college debt,” she noted. “I love my job and am trying very hard to find a solution that would enable me to keep it.”

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