Part-time shift driven by economy, not PPACA

New data suggests that whether companies deploy more part-time workers without health coverage is more dependent upon the state of the economy than the details of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

One of the criticisms of the PPACA has been that it would give companies an incentive to move workers from fulltime status to part-time to avoid having to provide health benefits to them.

A new report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute says the data doesn't really support that argument, and also points out that employers were moving workers from fulltime to part-time status before the law was enacted.

“Future trends are likely to depend more on factors such as the economy and unemployment rates,” the EBRI report concludes.

EBRI says its analysis indicates the recession was the major motivator behind the pre-Act shift to part-time employees.

“Between 2006 and 2010, the percentage of workers employed fewer than 30 hours per week increased from 11.9 percent to 14.1 percent, and the percentage of workers employed 30–39 hours per week increased from 11.4 percent to 13.2 percent,” EBRI reports. In fact, EBRI says, the number of part-timers, or at least those working less than 40 hours per week, has actually decreased slightly since the enactment of PPACA.

“At the same time, while both full-time and part-time workers have  experienced drops in [health] coverage, part-time workers have been  affected disproportionately,” said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Education and Research Program and author of the study.

EBRI said 20 million employees worked few than 30 hours a week in 2012, and just 12.8 percent had employer-based health benefits. Of the 18.8 million employed 30–39 hours per week in 2012, 33.6 percent had coverage. For those working at least 40 hours a week, 60.5 percent had health benefits.

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