Businesses criticize health care law 30-hour rule

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NEW YORK (AP) — Small business owners told a House subcommittee Wednesday they've been hurt by a health care law rule defining part-time work as less than 30 hours.

The owners spoke at a hearing by the Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology about the law's requirement that employers with 50 or more workers provide health insurance to staffers with 30 or more hours a week. Many companies have said they reduced workers' hours to avoid having to provide insurance for them.

Stephen Bienko told the subcommittee he'll have to limit hours of part-timers at his moving companies. Instead of three shifts totaling 30 to 36 hours a week, he'll give them two shifts at 20 to 24 hours a week, said Bienko, president of 42 Holdings LLC, which includes moving companies in northern New Jersey and the Nashville and Cleveland areas.

Bienko has 20 part-time workers and 52 full-timers and plans to add 34 part-timers in 2014.

In the supermarket industry, many employees will also see reduced hours, said Steven Hermann, vice president of Paul's Supermarkets, a three-store chain in Eldon, Mo. Employees who in the past expected to have 33 to 35 hours a week will be limited to under 30 hours per week, he said.

Two economists testified, giving differing views of the 30-hour rule. Raymond Keating, chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, said 7.9 million people worked part time but wanted full-time work during August, far above pre-recession levels. Much job growth in the country is part time because of the health care law, he said.

But Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said there has been only a modest increase in the number of employees working 26 to 29 hours per week in 2013, and that the number of workers putting in 30 to 35 hours a week or more is also up. That argues against the belief that employers are cutting work hours for a high number of employees, he said.