July 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Fighting Over the Health Care Law by the Hours

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Republican proponents of raising the workweek threshold for employee coverage under the Affordable Care Act to 40 hours per week include Collins, who plans to introduce a bill dealing with this aspect of the law.

A tough partisan fight is developing over how best to meet the needs of part-time workers in light of the 30-hour workweek threshold for employer-mandated health care.

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan warns the mandate, which would start at the beginning of next year under the delayed employer provision of the Affordable Care Act, would create a “new class of employees, the Obamacare 29ers,” with shorter shifts to avert mandates. “Washington should be removing obstacles to individuals finding full-time work, not creating them,” Camp said.

The law would require large employers with at least 50 full-time workers to cover employees who average at least 30 hours on the job per week starting in 2015. If such employers do not cover workers, they face penalties of up to $2,000 per worker, after the first 30 employees. If they provide coverage that falls short of standards, there would be other fines for each employee that uses a tax credit subsidy to buy coverage on an exchange.

House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he expected floor action soon on a proposal by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., to raise the workweek threshold for workers eligible for mandated coverage to 40 hours per week. The proposal also would shield more employers from the mandate by raising the monthly gauge for a full-time equivalent employee on a payroll from 120 to 174 hours.

“We just have to find the right time to move the bill. His bill is very powerful,” Sessions said.

In the Senate, Republican proponents plan to offer a similar bipartisan proposal by Susan Collins of Maine as the cornerstone of a GOP alternative that could be offered in a potential side-by-side vote with a Democratic proposal to raise the current minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over two years.

The issue of worker hours marks a developing fight in the broader battle in Congress over the health care law, one that was set aside when President Barack Obama last year postponed enforcement of the employer mandate for a year. But Republicans, and some Democrats, have been looking more closely at the issue as the individual coverage mandate has suffered a choppy rollout. Republicans also have sought to tie the health care law to relatively lackluster jobs growth.

The 30-hour-per-week standard for mandated coverage under the health care law has come under fire from business owners, who warned in a House hearing Tuesday that they might be forced to cut hours of some workers to avoid having to pay for insurance coverage. The GOP proposals have been endorsed by advocates for restaurants, retailers and hotels that rely on many part-time workers.

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