Daily Dispatches
Dearborn, Mich., Mayor John B. O'Reilly Jr.
Associated Press/Photo by Carlos Osorio
Dearborn, Mich., Mayor John B. O'Reilly Jr.

Working for Obamacare

Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act seems to be boosting employment after all. But perhaps not as you might expect.

A report from Reuters on Friday said the number of people working to implement the healthcare overhaul has reached the tens of thousands. Many are state employees and contractors simply working to spread the word and sign Americans up for the new healthcare plans offered under the law.

With an October deadline looming, many states are scurrying to set up health insurance exchanges where residents without insurance can find appropriate coverage. Though some exchange offices will need only a dozen or a few dozen staff members, others will need scores: California’s exchange, Covered California, expects to have 398 staff members, in addition to 20,000 or more workers in the field or in call centers, helping residents find appropriate coverage, including subsidized plans.

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Many of these recruiting jobs will be farmed out to private contractors like Maximus Health Services, Reuters reported. The contractor will run call centers in Maryland, Vermont, and Hawaii to answer questions from uninsured citizens who are caught in confusion between Obamacare’s insurance mandate and the options for new coverage. In Hawaii, Maximus plans to have 25 workers available to handle inquiries. 

Nonprofits have also joined the effort: One, Enroll America, plans to use thousands of volunteers to sign up the uninsured in multiple states. The IRS also expects to hire thousands of new employees because of the healthcare law.

Meanwhile, Reuters noted, job gains among health workers have been relatively small, and in other sectors, employers have been reluctant to hire while the Affordable Care Act is still in jump-start mode.

Many businesses can’t afford to provide healthcare coverage for all their employees, and are instead opting to cut back part-time workers’ hours. The healthcare law doesn’t require businesses to insure employees who work less than 30 hours a week.

Private companies aren’t alone: Government employers are also cutting hours. Long Beach, Calif., is limiting 1,600 part-time workers to about 27 hours a week to avoid new healthcare costs. Local officials say they’d have to cut city services if they didn’t cut part-time hours. “We’re in the same boat as many employers,” said Tom Modica, the Long Beach director of government affairs, a few weeks ago.

A new policy in Dearborn, Mich., requires part-time and seasonal employees to work an average of no more than 28 hours a week because of the Affordable Care Act. “If we had to provide health care and other benefits to all of our employees, the burden on the city would be tremendous,” said Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr.

Perhaps some of those part-time workers could fill in their lost hours answering phone calls at state insurance exchanges.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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