Mike Shedlock

Obamacare does not mandate healthcare coverage for part-time employees (defined as those working less than 30 hours a week). As a direct result, numerous retail stores including Trader Joe’s and Home Depot have already stopped offering healthcare plans to part-time workers.

Today, Target, the second-largest U.S. discount retailer by sales with about 361,000 total employees last fiscal year, joined the list. Effective April 1, Target to Drop Health Insurance for Part-Time Workers.

“You see a lot of retailers making adjustments in contemplation of the full effect of the employer mandate penalties in 2015,” Neil Trautwein, a lobbyist with the National Retail Federation, a trade group in Washington, said in a phone interview. “Even though it is not effective yet, it is already having an effect on the job market and putting companies where they would probably not otherwise want to be.”

“Health-care reform is transforming the benefits landscape and affecting how all employers, including Target, administer health benefits coverage,” Jodee Kozlak, Target’s executive vice president of human resources, said in yesterday’s web posting. She cited “new options available for our part-time team, and the historically low number of team members who elected to enroll in the part-time plan.”

No Target workers will see their hours cut as part of the change, she said. A Target spokeswoman, Jill Hornbacher, wouldn’t say how many part-time workers the company employs, saying in an e-mail that the number “fluctuates often.”

The Affordable Care Act created new government-run health insurance exchanges to sell coverage to uninsured people, often with premiums discounted by federal subsidies. It disqualifies Americans for subsidies at the exchanges if they have an offer of “affordable” coverage from their employers, defined as an insurance premium less than 9.5 percent of their income.

Target plans to pay $500 to part-timers losing coverage and a consulting firm will help those workers sign up for new Obamacare plans. It said on its website that many part-time workers may prefer coverage from the health law’s exchanges, and that by offering them insurance, “we could actually disqualify many of them from being eligible” for subsidies.

Mike Shedlock

Mike Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management.