We’re going to see a lot more part-time employment

This is from a few weeks’ back and I had been meaning to cover it:

Wal-Mart will drop health insurance benefits for its part-time workers, the New York Times reports this morning.

Sarah Kliff offers related comment:

The [ACA] law, however, is largely silent on the subject of part-time workers, and there are no penalties for not offering them coverage.

That makes the divide between “full time” and “part time” a key distinction for the health-care law, and one the Obama administration is fine-tuning.

It will not be an easy fine tune.


No doubt the planners will once again triumph over the market.

The market has central planners who are just as incompetent, powerful and dangerous as any state planners. F. eks; Goldman Sachs

But don't let that interfere with your out of date sloganeering.

Agreed, but on average they have far less power and can't consistently make poor economic decisions. Well, assuming the central planners don't bail them out after they've consistently made those poor economic decisions.

Of course it does, it couldn't be a market without winners and losers! The difference is, free market players don't get to point guns at people, and can fail due to their bad decisions.

"The difference is, free market players don’t get to point guns at people, and can fail due to their bad decisions."

Exactly. Goldman Sachs has payed a price, although not nearly enough for my taste, nevertheless they are down 62% from their 2007 high. I'd prefer zero, but at least they've paid a price.

I can't think of any movers or shakers in government who had to pay a comparable price for their role in this debacle.

So their huge bonuses are 62% of what they were?
If they don't feel it, it's totally meaningless.

If anything the movers and shakers in gov got more powerful.

The free market has never existed and Goldman Sachs have more power than any government.

And don't forget the Gnomes of Zurich, they have more power than even Goldman Sachs.

Yeah, but how much can you really make cornering the underwear market?

Market central planners (like Goldman Sachs) achieved domination through government central planning.

It is a left wing myth that big corporations ideologically support laissez faire capitalism, or that government central planning and regulation is somehow a counter to corporate oligarchy.

Your progressive, anti-market ideology was the propaganda that allowed the state to create the existing corporate oligarchy.

I don't use Goldman Sachs. Or MF Global for that matter.

What meaningful distinction is there between GS and the Fed? Kind of a revolving door...

Is this really a new problem from the healthcare law? Seems to me I've been reading about this kind of thing for years. Particularly with Walmart.

Exactly right. Maryland saw its public health budget increase rapidly a decade ago and traced it to increased employment without health benefits.

But Federal law has required all workers be treated equally for benefits to be tax exempt so all workers in a wage class must get the same benefits, primarily health, but also life insurance, disability, etc. If the execs get benefits, then full time exempt workers must get benefits too, unless the exec benefits are taxed. If the top hourly nonexempt workers get benefits, then the bottom nonexempt workers. The only way to not offer benefits is to create a separate class - part-time. But the labor relations regulator has been sued and forced to review cases of fake part-time workers - part-time workers required to work 50 hours a week, so the risk of part-time workers is they must be part-time. Some firms limit part-time to 30 hours max,others 35 hours, some push it to 39 hours.

Wal-Mart's response beyond fierce lobbying was to offer health benefits to part-time workers on an optional basis on the same terms as full-time store employees, but with multiple options and high costs paid by employees. Wal-Mart also entered the health care delivery business with its $8 a month prescription drug program, and its efforts on in-store clinics.

Wal-Mart is on that basis much better than industry over all - Wal-Mart gets undeserved bad press because they are the largest private employer after the USPS, and Wal-Mart has more part-time workers that the large number of part-time USPS workers. Wal-Mart has the scale to directly attack health care costs at delivery and is acting to do so.

But all part-time workers in all businesses are treated pretty much the same way as health care costs increased out of control since 1998 when insurance premiums began increasing 8-10% annually on average until 2009.

mulp, Tony, do you understand the difference between "a lot" and "more than before"?

We've been going that route though already.

Admittedly I don't have the hard data to back this up, but I've noticed a trend towards more part-time and temporary (or contract) employment at the expense of the permanent, 9 to 5 style employment that was the norm. And a good part of the reason is to get around the various legal and social costs that come with the "normal" 9 to 5 gigs.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing! If it becomes widespread enough, not having everyone be expected to show up at the same time every weekday morning could kill the rush hour commute, which has real environmental costs that are not widely appreciated. And yes, its possible to get by with a series of temporary and quasi jobs. However, since a good part of the reason to the trend is to for employers not to provide various benefits associated with permanent full-time employment, this will mean that more workers will not have these benefits.

...will not have employer benefits but will end up with government system benefits - one must conclude business want government to provide the social insurance benefits so they can simply focus on their core business competency instead of becoming experts in health system design and implementation without actually having the means to get the date or the scale to force providers to comply with their system design.

No one can point to any nation with a "free market" health care system as "a shining city on a hill" to sell to US voters. Every nation with a reasonable health care system has heavy government involvement with mandates on employers in most cases that are simple and place all businesses in a market segment on equal disadvantage.

And no one can point to any nation with a non “free market” health care system as “a shining city on a hill” to sell to US voters.

You can never sell another country's solutions as a "shining city on a hill" to US voters - at least not as long as there are people selling nationalism in competition with it.

This is not for lack of good examples of better ways of doing things.

Oh, I don't know, in the1950s we were hearing how we needed to emphasize science and math like the Soviets, the 60s and 70s were the era of imitating Euro social welfare programs, the 1980s were about how we needed to be more like the Japanese, and now we get lectures about China.

Nationalism is actually how these things are sold to voters -- we want to be the best country.

Now, if we could just get Canadian spending caps, Swedish school choice, and Dutch legalization of vice.

And yes, its possible to get by with a series of temporary and quasi jobs.

You be the first, OK?

Eliminate any tax advantages enjoyed by employer-provided health insurance (or penalties for not providing it). End the linkage of employment and health insurance.

That's the long-term goal of all this, right? The Part-Timer incentive problem has been around long before Wal-Mart's latest move.

I like this. You should be able to keep your health insurance not matter where you work. And let's get rid of employer-based group plans. Just make the whole country (or state) one big group for which the insurers can compete.

Yes, a million times yes.

The employer-based healthcare model was a terrible, terrible idea.

As Arnold KIing's book pointed out, the insulation between patients and costs is several layers deep now.

If some (or even most) people want to pay a premium to insulate themselves from painful cost/benefit decisions re healthcare, then let them buy such policies, and let others buy different policies. Lumping them all together by workplace removes most of the choice.

It isn't Wal-Mart's fault that health care costs are rising so quickly. This won't stop at Wal-Mart. Next stop will be state employees..

Yeah, why is this bad again? Seems like a great way to make labor more divisible among low-skilled workers (and, increasingly, middle-skilled workers, though it will be hard for those people to build up a career). If you want to work 40+ hours a week, just get 2 part time jobs or a full time job at a company that pays you less cash in exchange for better benefits. If you'd rather work only 20, then someone else gets a part-time job. That's much better than the "40 hours or nothing" duality.

Let them eat cake.

That's one very negative interpretation. Another is that we're a super-productive economy and maybe we can take those gains and turn them into less working rather than more stuff.

When possible, it makes sense for companies to offer, and for employees to accept, health benefits right up to the point where the marginal value of a pre-tax dollar spent on health insurance equals the marginal value of a post-tax dollar spent on anything else. They are able to share in some portion of the gain from tax-advantaging.

However, all this should affect is the allotment of compensation, not total compensation. If a company is only willing to offer total compensation equal or slightly greater than minimum wage for a worker, there is little room for them to reallocate some of that compensation to health benefits. If health insurance could be purchased in small increments it wouldn't be an issue, but in reality it's quite chunky.

If HSAs were made available to those without health insurance, rather than just to those with high deductible health insurance (I think that's the law), I think this would no longer be an issue.

Another reason why a public option was critical.

... You have no idea what this was about, do you?

Part-time workers fall in roughly three categories:
- students with health benefits working for extra income to pay to go to school
- spouses working part-time with health benefits to get extra income or to keep current
- the working poor scraping to get by and currently denied health benefits, but with their kids covered

ACA expands the first case, and provides means-tested coverage to the working poor, which pretty much defines probably 40-50 million workers.

The ideal trend is for all employers to drop health benefits so every person must buy their own on a single free market where the consumer is the one deciding what health care plan they want, not the health care provider.

For individual buyers, health insurance is like going to the fruit market and sellers set the price based on your looks or name, or decides arbitrarily to refuse to sell to you because you are white, and gets away with it because every other fruit vendor refuses to sell to whites, or does so only by selling rotten fruit at high prices.

The way to eliminate the mandate and eliminate moral hazard is to require that all medical treatment be provided for free or only after payment has been assured, with zero requirement to treat anyone under any circumstance. To identify the insured, provide the option to be "chipped", a couple of chips, one under the scalp and another in the sternum will allow an EMT to get the ID in an emergency to determine if insurance or bond has been posted. If no payment arrangement has been made, then they clear the road and take them to hospice to see if they survive or die.

I'm confused

mulp is a dingleberry (those are the small pieces of shit that dangle from your asshole after a dump)

"One weird twist to this: Wal-Mart’s definition of a “part-time employee,” according to the Times, ranges between 24 and 33 hours-per-week. The health reform law sets the threshold slightly lower, counting anyone who works 30 hours-per-week as a full-time employee. “Their definition of part time did seem to include people who might be considered full time under the health reform law,” says Judy Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. This means that Wal-Mart could, come 2014, be required to cover some of the employees it’s now dropping."

The comment by Judy Solomon, that Wal-Mart could be required to cover some employees, seems obtuse. It's seems highly probable that Wal-Mart will redefine its "part-time" group to be in the 24-30 hour range.

So this makes the healthcare bill a stealth job sharing scheme? With unemployment like it is, I'm in favor.

I had the same reaction. Although, now I want to know more about how this redistribution of hours worked relates to Medicaid.

I think we should stop focusing on what the ACA does, or does not, do. This kind of talk is just a distraction for the real issue.

And the real issue is that Government is awesome, and employers are oppressors.

Yay, Government! Keep this up, and that $15 trillion hole you dug will be gone in no time.

PS Wal-Mart? Is there anything more evil? Like, ever? I don't care if poor people get stuff cheap there. Evil is evil.

Another argument for a real universal healthcare system like here in the UK.

Part-time is much better for your work-life balance. It shouldn't be punished.

Said like someone in the UK. Part-time shouldn't be subsidized either.

Not to mention it's a dumb, arbitrary distinction whose only purpose is to create loopholes and solve government-created problems. Really, if pay can be pro-rated by the hour, why can't everything else? Three words, gov, ern, ment.

"Said like someone in the UK. " Actually I find few in the UK calling there system 'real'.

I agree again with the overall thrust of the comments.

One way to understand this is that a series of short working contracts, or taking on a couple of part time jobs, is not much worse in terms of salary and probably better for work/ life balance than the traditional full time permanent job. Plus more part time jobs allows for job sharing, a bonus with high unemployment. The problem for the worker is that they lose the health care coverage that traditionally comes with the traditional job. The problem for the government is the effect on schemes to fix the healthcare problem by requiring employers to provide it. I don't think this is a big deal because healthcare-through-employment was always a terrible idea from either the right or the left perspective, and the US has been something of an outlier in attempting this.

I remember reading an article by Lester Thurow where he said that part time workers should never be exempted form a rule because it encourages the use more part-time works. He said that companies are inclined to extend benefits to all full time works.

I think in cases such as this the policy should be that if you provide a substantial benefit to your full time workers, then you must provide the equivalent benefit to part time workers. By equivalent, I mean equivalent per hours worked.

So if you average cost of healthcare is (after tax considerations) $2080 per year for an employee, then you provide workers with either health care or an extra $1 per hour. Granted, this could end up actually reducing employer provided health care, but the employees could then use the extra money to purchase health care on the market.

Or you could hang the rules and your workers in money. The workers could then use that money to buy goods and services that they wanted. Goods and services like... healthcare. For example.

...hang the rules and PAY your workers in money...

No, no, it's better the other way.

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