Obamacare: A Pathway From Work To Welfare?
Religion & Liberty Online

Obamacare: A Pathway From Work To Welfare?

If the National Bureau of Economic Research is to be believed, Obamacare stands to cause more than 1 million Americans to shift from work to welfare. Why? America will lose an abundance of low-paying full-time jobs to relieve employers of health-care cost burdens. The Wall Street Journal recently reported:

[A] number of restaurants and other low-wage employers say they are increasing their staffs by hiring more part-time workers to reduce reliance on full-timers before the health-care law takes effect.

“I’d be surprised if the Affordable Care Act didn’t have something to do with” the pickup in part-time hiring, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “Companies don’t want to pay for health care unnecessarily if they can avoid it, so they’ll try to avoid it.” However, he said “the effects will be harder to discern in the data.”

The study, Public Health Insurance, Labor Supply, and Employment Lock by Craig Garthwaite, Tal Gross, and Matthew J. Notowidigdo, backs this up. If and when Obamacare goes into effect, there could be “substantial declines” in employment for those in low-paying jobs.

If all states implement the Medicaid expansion, our estimates suggest that approximately 4.2 million of these privately insured individuals will move into public coverage.

To place this number in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that if all states implemented the ACA Medicaid expansion, there would be 16 million additional Medicaid enrollees. In an earlier analysis, the CBO estimated that only 10 percent of the new Medicaid enrollees will previously have had private coverage. Our results suggest much larger crowdout among childless adults, which may result in a 16 percent increase in public health insurance enrollees under the ACA.

Joanne Peters, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services says Obamacare will actually help the small business owner, by allowing them to “pool risk” with other small businesses. However, that doesn’t appear to be what business owners are expecting, as they re-tool their workforces, downgrading full-time workers to part-time wherever possible. One restaurant chain owner in Denver believes Obamacare will cost him $400,000 annually, unless he makes changes.

Mr. Carstensen had 180 full-time and 40 part-time workers and is in the process of switching to 80 full-time and 320 part-time workers who clock no more than 28 hours per week. He is plowing ahead despite the Obama administration’s reprieve, he said, because “we need to get there anyway, and it will take until January 1, 2015, to make this transition.”

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks some interesting questions along these lines:

[I]f employers do decide to start dropping health coverage en masse, what will that mean? Is it genuinely a bad thing? Or would it be a good deal in the long run, increasing pressure on Congress to hasten the day when we have genuine universal coverage in America?

What Mr. Drum is missing here is the really important question: who is going to pay for “genuine universal coverage?” Henry Blodget notes at least 10 new taxes, including a 0.9% surtax on Medicare taxes for those making $200,000 or more and a tax on medical devices costing more than $100. In other words, you and I are going to pay for it, along with our employers. “Genuine universal coverage” comes at a cost, and that cost is going to be full-time jobs, less hiring, lower salaries and higher taxes. How healthy.


Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.