Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Switch to Part-Time Work Preceded the Health Care Law, Study Says

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

May 22, 2013 -- The question of whether the health care law is spurring an increase in part-time work needs to take into account that such a trend was already under way, a new report by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) states.

"The recent recession has already resulted in an increased use of part-time workers," notes the analysis by the nonpartisan institute.

The percentage of workers employed part-time has been rising since 2007, increasing from 16.7 percent in that year to 22.2 percent in 2011, the EBRI report said.

The health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) requires that, starting in 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time workers pay a penalty if they do not offer health coverage to those employees. The law does not require health coverage for part-time workers, who are defined as people working fewer than 30 hours a week.

There are reports that some employers are increasing the number of part-time workers they employ in order to avoid having to provide so much health coverage when the insurance mandate begins in 2014. In a recent interview, EBRI analyst Paul Fronstin stopped short of saying that such a trend is under way because of the health care law, but he acknowledged the possibility.

EBRI's new report notes that resolving that question requires taking into account that the switch to part-time work had already started.

Possible Health Care Law Impact

Almost all employers with 50 or more full-time workers offer health coverage. But there are other provisions of the health care law "that are expected to increase the cost of coverage," the report says. "As a result, there is concern that employers may respond by cutting back on health coverage for part-time workers or by increasing the proportion of part-time workers employed," it adds.

That already seems to be happening. Employers are using more part-time workers and are less likely to offer them health benefits. In 2011, 59.6 percent of full-time workers had coverage from their jobs, while 15.7 percent of part-time employees had health benefits. "Both have been trending downward since 2007," the report said. "However, in relative terms, part-time workers have experienced a much larger decline in coverage than full-time workers. Between 2007 and 2011, full-time workers experienced a 2.8 percent reduction in the likelihood of having coverage from their own jobs, while part-time workers experienced a 15.7 percent decline."

Fronstin said that since there is much debate about how the health care law might affect employment, these recent trends provide an important baseline against which to measure the impact of the overhaul.

Publication Details