Obamacare nails public sector employees to the wall

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may deny that the Affordable Care Act is costing jobs, but many in the public sector aren’t buying it.

Surveys and interviews conducted by The New York Times revealed cuts in hours ranging from adjunct professors to garbage collectors. To avoid having to provide health care coverage as mandated by Obamacare, officials have reduced part-time employment to 29 hours a week and left vacancies unfilled, The Times found.

In Meriden, Conn., for example, School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni said his district would have to reduce the work load for the significant number of part-time employees working more than 30 hours a week.

“Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees?” he asked, according to The Times.

Dan Vogler, chairman of the Lawrence County, Penn., Commission, said prison guards and 911 emergency service personnel had their work week cut to 28 hours. And in Medina, Ohio, Mayor Dennis Howell said the city was forced to scale back the work week for police dispatchers, park inspectors and sanitation workers to 29 hours.

“Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Medina said.

President Obama has twice delayed the health care mandate for private companies, but benefits for public-sector workers in 2015 will be calculated based on the reduced hours worked in 2014 – meaning less money to take home.

The U.S. Labor Department reported a loss of 698,000 jobs at the federal, state and local level over the past 24 months — a trend that is expected to continue, according to a recent survey of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Unlike private businesses, which can pass on cost increases to consumers, the public sector cannot. That’s only crippling government workers’ ability to maintain their living – and keep their benefits. The American Federation of Teachers, a pillar of Democratic strength, noted that colleges and universities in 15 states employ part-time faculty members who cannot get health insurance.

Sebelius may like to wear blinders, but this year’s Republican candidates will have no problem finding the fodder.

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