The Real Face Of Obamacare: Suddenly-Unemployed Young People
Maine, also known as “Vacationland,” is a state that is centered on seasonal employment. Entire towns—mine included —rely on tourism as a major industry. I’ve worked in the past at an amusement park that’s only open from May to September. My little brother works at a restaurant that’s only open March-October. It’s nearly impossible to go to a Dairy Queen in Maine during the winter, since almost all of them are operated seasonally. Why am I saying this? Because if Obamacare stands as-is, it will become a lot harder for people like my brother and I to get jobs—and that’s unfair.
Under provisions in Obamacare, employers with over 50 employees, like the small seafood restaurant my brother works at, would be forced to pay for health insurance for employees who work more than 120 days. If the company does not want to do that, they would be forced to pay a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee. For part-time employees, employers will be fined for each “full-time equivalent worker” of 30 hours per week. My brother’s restaurant currently has 65 people on payroll. That’s a penalty of up to $130,000 for just this one small business.
This is very bad for young workers like my brother and I. Small businesses (mostly inns, hotels, and restaurants) in Maine are already scrambling as to what they’re going to do if the law is upheld. They’re going to have to hire fewer workers (to stay under the 50-person limit) or close their businesses down earlier to keep people employed less than 120 days.
Or, as likely will be the case of where my brother works, a small business will have to downsize their staff to be under 50 workers. That’s 15 lost jobs at just my brother’s restaurant—jobs that would have been held otherwise by young people.
According to Greg Dugal, director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, “People are really going to sacrifice part of their season so they don’t have to provide health insurance. They’ll have to choose between May and October.” Small inns and restaurants simply cannot afford to provide insurance for all of their seasonal employees—so they’re just not going to hire them.
Cutting the season is an interesting dilemma for employers. May is traditionally the start of the tourism season, with Mother’s Day and Memorial Day Weekend. That’s a lot of money, tourists, and jobs that will be lost due to this regulation. Similarly, October has Columbus Day Weekend and some of the country’s prettiest foliage, which brings tourists in to the state in droves. This is a lot of lost money—but providing health care would likely bankrupt businesses as well. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone. Obamacare makes it so that it’s more profitable for a company to fire people or close early rather than pay for health care.
It’s already very challenging for a person my age to find a job this summer: more than seven out of 10 teens are jobless this summer, and this is even before these regulations have gone into effect. I go to school three states away from where I live. It wouldn’t make sense to hire me just for the summer—an employer would have to pay for my health insurance during my four months of being home. It will be way too expensive. I would go jobless.
People my age need jobs. We need work experience. My brother and I feel blessed that we have been able to find employment each summer. A lot of our friends are not as lucky. The teens and 20s are a time when a person learns basic employment skills: things like working at a cash register, how to interact with customers, showing up on time for a job, managing a paycheck, etc. If my generation is unable to find work, we’re going to miss out on this valuable experience. My generation is going to miss out.
It does not make sense that the government would promote a bill that punishes employers and makes it harder for young and low-skilled people to find work. This will result in chronic unemployment and further dependency upon the government. It’s not good, and that’s not how I envisioned my future. Obamacare can and will make things much worse for my generation. It’s already happening.
The media often uses examples of chronically ill people as the “human face” of Obamacare—those who may suffer if the law would have been struck down. Though the stories are heartbreaking, there are healthcare funding alternatives that don’t come from the government. Charities exist for this reason.
There isn’t, however, a charity that will employ my brother if he loses his job as a result of this bill. This should be the real face of Obamacare: the face of the young worker who’s going to lose their job because the law stands.
Christine Rousselle | Providence College