Claiming to be on the side of the working poor, House Republicans, along with a dozen Democrats, this week adopted a bill that would redefine the full-time work week under Obamacare from 30 hours to 40 hours.
GOP lawmakers say the rule established under the Affordable Care Act that mandates that employers with 50 or more workers offer insurance to those working at least 30 hours a week caused employers to cut workers’ hours to avoid paying for healthcare. Under the Republican bill, these workers would now have to work 40 hours a week to be assured of coverage.
Backers of the plan include business groups, not advocates for low-income Americans, which prompted some Democrats to scoff at the GOP’s argument that they’re on the side of struggling employees.
“I’m sure every American worker is saying: thank God the Republicans are going to have me work 10 more hours before I can get health insurance. Aren’t you generous?” Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said.
The GOP plan, known as the Save American Workers Act, cleared the House 252 to 172, and could pass the Senate as well. Two Democratic senators, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are co-sponsors of the measure. But if it reaches the White House, President Barack Obama is likely to veto it since it would undercut a key provision of his signature policy achievement.
The Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would result in 1 million people losing their health care coverage, forcing them either into government-supported plans or having no medical insurance at all. That would force an increase in federal spending of $53.2 billion over the next decade. Republicans, usually concerned about increasing the deficit, have not yet announced how they’ll pay for the higher costs.
The plan wouldn’t even save many jobs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only about 7% of employees work 30 to 34 hours a week, the range in which it would make sense to cut someone’s hours to keep them off insurance. However, if the threshold is moved to 40 hours, it would be easy for employers to move those people, who make up 44% of the workforce, from 40 hours to 39, thus avoiding the insurance mandate and taking away healthcare from millions.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley