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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014
Editorials

A painful preview of Obamacare

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Want a preview of the economic impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act? Consider the actions of local community colleges.

As the Tribune's Jerome Stockfisch reports, Hillsborough Community College and St. Petersburg College are cutting the hours of adjunct professors.

The reason is simple: The law requires an employer to provide health care to employees who work 30 hours or more.

The community colleges are simply being financially responsible and trying to avoid what likely will be millions of dollars in additional costs.

Businesses, you can be sure, will do likewise. The result will be fewer hours and less revenue for part-time workers.

Of course, that impact is from just one aspect of a law that includes a number of taxes and regulations that will entangle businesses.

The White House has delayed implementation of the act's mandate that businesses with 50 or more employees provide health insurance or pay a fine.

The delay will put off some of the law's effects until after the midterm elections, but its heavy costs look to be inevitable unless President Obama and the act's supporters recognize the damage it will cause, and Congress revamps it.

Consider Hillsborough Community College. Stockfisch reports that with the projected health insurance costs of $7,850 per employee, it would cost HCC about $863,500 for the 110 employees expected to affected by the provision.

At St. Petersburg College, it is expected to affect 91 adjunct professors. With anticipated health insurance costs of $8,100 per employee, the law would add $777,600 to the college's costs.

St. Petersburg College President William Law told his trustees about providing health insurance to workers: "We simply are not in a position to expand greatly what we're already doing in that regard."

You can bet many business executives are saying the same thing. Even unions, which were among the strongest supporters of Obama and the Affordable Health Care Act, now are upset.

As The Wall Street Journal Opinion Page points out, last week leaders of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers International and Unite-Here (a hotel and services union) wrote an open letter that complained the law was creating "nightmare scenarios."

Foremost among their complaints is the same 30-hour requirement that has some colleges cutting back on adjuncts' hours.

The unions also fear the law will make it more economical for companies to drop health care coverage entirely and simply pay a fine.

It all shows the lurking dangers of this massive government intrusion into the marketplace.

Dr. Richard Mercadante, of the Faculty Governance Organization at St. Petersburg College, frames the issue well: "Bottom line, for state colleges, the new law becomes an unfunded mandate."

Indeed. But the health care law is more than an unfunded mandate on educational institutions. It is an unfunded, and likely unaffordable, mandate on private enterprise that seems certain to dangerously roil an already shaky economy.

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