What’s the ‘Obama dodge’?

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    Question: What’s the “Obama dodge”?

    Got questions about the Affordable Care Act? In a regular feature, the WHYY/NewsWorks Health and Science Desk is providing “The Short Answer.”

    Today’s question

    What’s the “Obama dodge”?

    The short answer

    It’s shorthand for something some organizations are doing in order to avoid thousands of dollars in anticipated health-care costs.

    Under the Affordable Care Act, larger employers have to offer health coverage to full-time workers. Full-time in this case is more than 30 hours a week. What some employers are doing, is trimming hours for part-time workers in order to avoid having to pay for their health insurance plans.

    But wasn’t the employer mandate postponed? 

    Yes. Just last month, the Obama administration announced that employers wouldn’t be required to offer health insurance until Jan. 1, 2015. One expert I spoke with did stress a fine distinction: the mandate itself has not been delayed; the means to enforce it have been. Some employers are already preparing for this new rule coming down the pike.

    Where is this cutting of hours happening?

    It’s happening across the country. An interesting sector where we’re seeing this is local governments. There’s one township in New Jersey that has reduced hours for 25 workers. The township says the move will save almost $800,000 a year in health-care costs.

    How widespread is this?

    Not very, according to some preliminary research, but even defenders of the reform law say it ends up creating a “clear incentive” [PDF] for employers to cut some worker hours.

    Experts say workers in some sectors—restaurants, retail, etc.—will be affected more than others. However, the majority of organizations to which this part of the law applies already offer health-care benefits, limiting its potential impact.

    The 2010 health law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. How will it affect you, your wallet and your health? Email your questions to healthandscience@whyy.org or tweet us at @NewsWorksWHYY.

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