ObamaCare’s employer mandate may have been delayed until 2015, but its disastrous effects on the price of labor are still being felt throughout the country. Now we have a new prime (and hilarious) example of its inevitable market distortions. Much of the budding bureaucracy being hired in a California ObamaCare call center inform eager entitlement-seekers how to access the new ObamaCare dole will be working under 30 hours/week. Of course this hiring policy is designed to avoid, of all things, ObamaCare.
Earlier this year, Contra Costa County won the right to run a health care call center, where workers will answer questions to help implement the president’s Affordable Care Act. Area politicians called the 200-plus jobs it would bring to the region an economic coup.
Now, with two months to go before the Concord operation opens to serve the public, information has surfaced that about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits — a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time.
The Contra Costa County supervisor whose district includes the call center called the whole hiring process — which attracted about 7,000 applicants — a “comedy of errors.”
“The battle for the call center was over jobs with good working wages and benefits; I never dreamed they would be part-time,” said Karen Mitchoff, who has heard from complaining constituents and expressed her “extreme displeasure with how it was handled” to call center supervisors.
One recent hire, who last week learned the job would be part-time, said the new “intermittent” employees feel like they’ve been used as a political tool, and many now regret applying for the positions.
“What’s really ironic is working for a call center and trying to help people get health care, but we can’t afford it ourselves,” said the worker, who asked for anonymity out of fear of losing the job. The county says it had been telling the public and supervisors all along that some positions would be full-time and some part-time. However, portions of staff reports list all 204 jobs as full-time, and a job posting said the same.
As I wrote about previously, this Contra Costa call center in the San Francisco Bay Area was the source of an epic battle earlier this year between two cities within the county determined to profit from the latest public trough, this time tied to California’s ObamaCare exchange dubbed “Covered California.” The city of Concord (and a politically entrenched family that owns the local garbage company as well as the site for the new jobs) ultimately prevailed to much community fanfare at the prospect of over 200 new full-time jobs. The excitement was short-lived.
Tax Dollars for Jobs to Inform of Access to Tax Dollars
As Covered California and the rest of the ObamaCare exchanges around the country prepare to open their doors on October 1 for enrollment that will take effect January 1, there has already been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the so-called navigators, assisters, and counselors being hired to help access ObamaCare’s subsidies.
A group of Republican Senators led by Sen. Hatch (R-UT) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius last month expressing deep concern about the education and professional credentials of these agents for ObamaCare, as well as the consumer protections for those who utilize their services. “In fact, the standards proposed by your Department could result in a convicted felon receiving federal dollars and gaining access to confidential taxpayer information. The same standards allow any individual who has registered with the exchange and completed two days of training to facilitate enrollment….”
But the administration’s real goal is ensuring maximum exposure to the law’s subsidies ASAP. As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated over the weekend: “On Jan. 1, the exchanges kick in and the subsidies kick in,’ said the Texas Republican in a speech Saturday at the Western Conservative Summit. ‘Once those kick in, it’s going to prove almost impossible to undo Obamacare. The administration’s plan is very simple: Get everyone addicted to the sugar so that Obamacare remains a permanent feature of our society.” This includes a PR campaign of nearly $700 million.
Employer Mandate Still Looms
The other key concern this story highlights is that the Obama administration’s unconstitutional one-year delay of the employer mandate is another temporary, stop-gap measure based on a faulty premise. Why is this ObamaCare call center still concerned about the employer mandate if it doesn’t kick in until 2015? As we’ve learned from countless unsuccessful stimulus attempts to date, temporary measures fail to even have the desired temporary effects.
The Obama administration also failed to account for the fact that the employer’s testing period for the mandate’s oppressive excise tax penalties occurs in the prior year. For example, you’ve likely heard that only companies with 50 or more full-time employees are subject to the mandate. That’s true, but guess how you determine whether your company is an “applicable large employer?” 2014 is the year that matters for 2015 penalties:
“(4) Applicable large employer. The term applicable large employer means, with respect to a calendar year, an employer that employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) on business days during the preceding calendar year.”
How about those employers that clearly have at least 50 full-time employees? They still have their work cut out in determining which employees count as full-time employees. Under ObamaCare’s standards, that means a complicated testing period to determine whether the employee worked at least 30 hours/week during the past year. Again, this determination of an employee’s full-time status will be made in 2014 for the penalties that have been delayed to 2015.
“(40) Standard measurement period. The term standard measurement period means a time period of at least three but not more than 12 consecutive months that an applicable large employer member selects and uses in determining whether an ongoing employee is a full-time employee under the look-back measurement method….”
The result: ObamaCare forces employers to be just as stingy in their offering of full-time jobs in 2014 as they did before the delay. There’s a reason James Hoffa and other prominent labor leaders, hardly crusaders for free market principles, wrote a letter to Sen. Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) earlier this month warning that “the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”
There’s only one left way out of this morasse. It’s Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) effort to defund ObamaCare before it can take full effect in 2014. January 1, 2014 is the ObamaCare ultimatum.
If the Continuing Resolution this Fall allows that date to arrive with full funding for ObamaCare’s implementation, the government-driven healthcare revolution will be complete and forever entrenched. If that’s not worth standing up for in the face of a government shutdown, what is?