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Life Health > Health Insurance

Shift to part-time workers began pre-PPACA

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Health insurance reform might be forcing employers to increasingly turn to part-time workers, but the trend away from full-time employment was well under way years ago.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) mandates that employers with 50 or more fulltime workers provide health coverage to those workers or pay a penalty. That, in turn, has raised concerns that employers are cutting back hours on full and part-time workers.

But according to recent report from the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, the trend toward more part-time workers and less workplace-based health insurance coverage  began in the mid-2000s, before the passage of PPACA.

The percentage of workers employed part-time has been rising since 2007, increasing from 16.7 percent to 22.2 percent in 2011, the EBRI said. Over that period, the nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute found part-time workers experienced a much larger decline in health coverage than fulltime workers. Between 2007 and 2011, full-time workers experienced a 2.8 percent reduction in the likelihood of having coverage from their own jobs, while part-time workers suffered a 15.7 percent decline.

“Full-time workers are much more likely than part-time workers to have coverage from their own employers,” said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program and author of the report. “Both have been trending downward since 2007.”

He noted that in 2011, 59.6 percent of full-time workers had coverage from their own jobs, while 15.7 percent of part-time workers had such coverage.

Since there is considerable debate about how PPACA might affect employment, Fronstin said that these recent trends “provide an important base line against which to measure the impact of PPACA once its 2014 health coverage mandate takes effect.”

The number of part-time U.S. workers who could see their hours cut because of the PPACA could reach as high as 2.3 million, a figure considerably lower than some have theorized. That number — from a study by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education — is believed to be the first hard-data projection on the impact PPACA might have on the part-time jobs market.

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