Nation’s biggest movie theater chain cuts workweek, blaming ObamaCare

By Perry Chiaramonte, April 15, 2013

The nation’s largest movie theater chain has cut the hours of thousands of employees, saying in a company memo that ObamaCare requirements are to blame.

Regal Entertainment Group, which operates more than 500 theaters in 38 states, last month rolled back shifts for non-salaried workers to 30 hours per week, putting them under the threshold at which employers are required to provide health insurance. The Nashville-based company said in a letter to managers that the move was a direct result of ObamaCare.

One Regal theater manager told the move has sparked a wave of resignations from full-time managers who have seen their hours cut by 25 percent or more.

The manager told ObamaCare has had the unintended consequence of taking food off his table.

“Mandating businesses to offer health care under threat of debilitating fines does not fix a problem, it creates one,” he said. “It fosters a new business culture where 30 hours is now considered the maximum in order to avoid paying the high costs associated with this law.

Regal, which operates cinemas under the names Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theatres and United Artists Theaters and recently purchased Oregon-based Hollywood Theaters for $191 million, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The publicly-traded company’s stock has risen nearly 30 percent over the last year.…

It is no surprise that Fox News would frame the 30 hour work week requirement under the Affordable Care Act as “ObamaCare has had the unintended consequence of taking food off (the) table.”

Regal Entertainment Group is only one of many employers who have decided to limit part time workers to 30 hours to avoid the requirement of providing them with health insurance. That does create financial hardships for lower-income employees. They must either find more part time work, in which case they still wouldn’t be eligible for employer-sponsored health plans, or they must find a new, full-time job at a time in which unemployment rates are quite high.

Fox’s framing indicates that the problem is the requirement in “ObamaCare” for larger employers to provide health insurance for their employees, or face a penalty for not doing so. Fox is right when you consider that legislation designed to expand health care coverage instead has the result of causing low-income workers to lose one-fourth of their work week hours, and still remain uninsured. But is this really the prime issue?

The problem that needs to be framed properly is the tens of millions in our nation who have no insurance. How do we cover those people? Obviously a single payer national health program financed equitably through progressive taxes would solve the problem, without taking food off of anyone’s table.

Instead, if we look only at the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act, we see an administratively complex, wasteful, fragmented system of a multitude of varying eligibilities and coverage requirements that can never ensure that everyone has stable coverage indefinitely. In fact, it is estimated that after the provisions are in full force, there will still be 30 million people without any coverage at all (CBO). What is worse, we will be paying much more than we would have if we were instead to adopt a single payer, improved Medicare for all.

Until we start doing a better job of framing the problems, we are not going to come up with the right solutions.