Congress Takes Fresh Stab at Obamacare’s 30-Hour Rule

A rollback of one of the more controversial requirements of the Affordable Care Act was one of the first bills to see passage in the House. Associations largely supported the passage, but the bill may face a veto from President Obama.

A rollback of one of the more controversial requirements in the Affordable Care Act was among the first bills passed this week in the newly convened House. Business groups largely support the measure, but it faces a likely veto by President Obama.

With the power balance in both the House and Senate now tipped in Republicans’ favor, one of the most contentious—and fundamental—provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could fall by the wayside.

But only if a bill passed in the House this week can evade the president’s veto pen.

On Thursday, the GOP-led House of Representatives voted to revise the healthcare law’s definition of full-time work, from 30 hours per week to 40 hours. The ACA requires employers with more than 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 1 million fewer people would get health insurance through their jobs if the definition of full-time work is changed to 40 hours, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The bill’s supporters say the change is needed because the 30-hour provision gives employers an incentive to cut employees’ work hours to avoid the insurance mandate.

The  passage of the Save American Workers Act was a victory for its backers, but the 252-172 vote tally would fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a threatened veto by President Barack Obama.

The bill passed largely, but not exclusively, thanks to Republican votes. Just 12 Democrats crossed the aisle to support the measure. Cosponsored by Reps. Todd Young (R-IN) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the legislation now awaits action in the Senate, where a similar bill, the Forty Hours Is Full Time Act, was introduced earlier this week. That bill is sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

A number of trade associations support the House bill, including:

National Restaurant Association: “We have long supported this bipartisan effort to set the definition of full-time under the ACA to 40 hours per week, reflecting more traditional workforce patterns—an issue critical to our industry,” CEO Dawn Sweeney said in a news release after the House vote. “Now that the House has done its part, we thank Sens. Collins and Donnelly for introducing the 40 Hours Is Full Time Act and urge the Senate to come together and move this critical legislation forward for the good of restaurants and the business community at large.”

National Retail Federation: In a statement published before the vote, NRF officials pushed for the bill’s passage, saying that’s it’s just one step to fix the healthcare law. “The Save American Workers Act is a commonsense piece of legislation that will restore an established workforce precedent and protect business owners and their employees,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said in a news release. “The Affordable Care Act is in serious need of revision and reform, and we urge Congress to further that process by approving this bipartisan piece of legislation to restore the traditional definition of a 40-hour work week.”

International Franchise Association: IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira suggested that the bill would encourage its members to continue hiring, and he pressed Obama to look at any bill that hits his desk with an open mind. “Although the president has threatened to veto this bill if it passes both chambers of Congress, we truly hope that he remains true to his statement he made the day after the 2014 midterm election that he would be open and receptive to hearing ideas from [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and [House Speaker John] Boehner on how to make responsible changes to the ACA to make it work better,” Caldiera said in a statement. “Well, Mr. President, we are now one step closer to you having that opportunity.”

While the House vote is significant, the chamber has already passed a similar bill twice in the past year. The Senate, which was under Democratic leadership before the midterms, has yet to pass such a bill.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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