12 Investigates: State workers losing hours to Obamacare

Published: Feb. 18, 2013 at 9:38 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2013 at 10:33 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Thousands of part-time state workers in Virginia will have their hours cut. The Commonwealth says its just trying to follow federal law.

The governor's office brings politics into the mix - saying it's a "consequence of a law Bob McDonnell didn't support."

There are 37,000 temporary workers in Virginia. According to a memo sent to agencies statewide, around 20 percent - or one in five part time workers - will see their hours limited to just 29 per week.

It's because of the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare," that takes effect next January.

There are new rules for part time workers. Anyone working more than 30 hours a week will have to be offered health insurance. If the company - or in this case, the state - doesn't, it could face a hefty fine.

It's all about the money, because we live in a balanced-budget world," said Sara Wilson, Director of VA Department of Human Resources.

Wilson estimates the state would need an extra $110 million to provide health insurance to all the part time workers who currently work more than 30 hours a week.

"$110 million was a lot of money," said Wilson. "It was a lot of money that was not included in the introduced budget."

Higher education will take the biggest hit - adjunct professors often work for several colleges at a time. This change could effect 883 employees at VCU.

"Anytime any decision impacts employees, it's always tough," said Wilson.

We asked Corporate Health Care Attorney Jeremy Ball if the Commonwealth's decision is inline with the new law.

"The fact that Virginia is doing it right now is definitely a policy decision," said Ball.

Like any other company in the U.S. with more than 50 employees, he says the state will either have to offer health care or limit hours.

"I think it's going to vary company to company. I think it's really a policy decision on how the company wants to use its resources. How it wants to pay it's employees and what kind of benefits it wants to provide."

Ball does say some companies are choosing to give a limited number of part time workers benefits because the of the law. Even Virginia is doing so - for the first time, offering 69 part-time "salaried workers" full health insurance benefits this year.

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