Employers keep workers under 30 hours to avoid Obamacare penalty

Thirty may or may not be a winning number at the roulette tables, but 30 is an important number at Hollywood Casino in Grantville.

Lots of employers are focusing on 30 as the nation inches closer to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The casino notified part-time employees who may have worked more than 30 hours a week in the past that they can no longer exceed 30.

Under the ACA, known as Obamacare, employers must provide health insurance for employees who work more than 30 hours per week or face a penalty.

Gene Barr of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry said Hollywood Casino is not alone.

“Not the first, won't be the last,” Barr said. “The casino is clearly one of many. We're gonna see more and more of this.”

Barr has heard anecdotally that Midstate employers are trimming workers or trimming their hours as fallout of the ACA.

“Government has decided that you as a business will pay this if you meet a certain size,” Barr explained. “They've put these conditions on and of course companies will have to work around and with those conditions in order to make sure they can stay as a successful business. Businesses have to take the steps they can to keep themselves profitable and keep the people that are now employed employed.”

Barr's explanation sounds perfectly reasonable and capitalistic. But John Hanger, Democratic candidate for governor, isn't buying it – especially in the case of Hollywood Casino.

“The least they can do with all the money they make because of a state casino license is give health insurance to their good workers,” Hanger said. “It's a terrible message that they're sending to Pennsylvanians and I'm insulted by that.”

Hanger, who's wife is a physician, said he wholeheartedly supports health insurance for all.

“We do need everybody in society to try to put the good of Pennsylvania, and the good of the country first and stop being so darn selfish about every last penny,” he said.

But shareholders demand penny pinching. So do taxpayers.

Experts say this very issue is coming to a school district near you. Schools have many part-time bus drivers and cafeteria workers who don't get health insurance.

“School districts are wrestling with what to do with this situation,” said attorney Eric Athey of the Harrisburg firm McNees, Wallace and Nurick. “Are they going to somewhere find the funds to offer coverage? Are they going to reduce hours? Or are they going to outsource these services?

Part-time employees who don't get insurance from their employers are required, under the ACA, to purchase it for themselves or face a $95 penalty the first year. That mandate begins January 1, but as Hollywood Casino shows, the effects are already being felt.

“Obamacare has been a drag on hiring in this commonwealth and this nation,” Barr said.


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