News and Tribune

January 23, 2014

Health care employer mandate to receive committee hearing in DC

Full-time status defined as 30 hours a week under ACA

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — A hearing has been called by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee to consider  the potential impact of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Beginning next year, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees must offer health coverage or they will be penalized. The employer mandate was slated to begin this year but in July President Barack Obama’s administration delayed the requirement.

The 30-hour a week standard for full-time employment has caused concern among Republicans and some Democrats in Indiana’s Congressional delegation, notably Sen. Joe Donnelly and Rep. Todd Young.

Young, a Republican, introduced the Save American Workers Act in June that called for the repeal of the 30-hour definition of full-time employment and to replace it with a 40-hour standard.

The measure has yet to be passed by Congress. When the bill was introduced, Young said the 30-hour threshold for full-time employment would likely result in job and hour cuts as employers scramble to avoid penalties or paying for coverage.

“We were promised this bill would create jobs, and evidence that the opposite is happening is apparent every day,” Young said last summer. “Repealing this definition [of full-time employment] and restoring it to the historical norm ensures this bill not only protects working poor and middle class employees, it also ensures that laws governing employment are consistent.”

Donnelly, a Democrat, has sponsored a similar measure in the Senate to Young’s called the Forty Hours is Full-Time Act.

In a November letter to the Senate Budget Committee, Donnelly joined Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WVa., in stating the 30-hour full-time qualification is “out-of-step” with standard national employment practices.

“Effective health care reform should expand access to coverage, while not inhibiting economic growth,” the letter stated.

The Senators went on to state that millions of employees could have their hours cut as a result of the full-time employment definition of 30 hours.  

Donnelly also sponsored a bill in December to clarify that volunteer emergency service workers wouldn’t be counted as full-time employees for the purposes of health coverage.

The U.S. Treasury announced in January that volunteer firefighters and emergency responders would be equally protected under the ACA, therefore the legislation didn’t move forward.

The issue has also been prominent locally.

The Floyd County Commissioners voted in July to limit part-time employees’ hours to 28 a week to avoid penalties.

The employer mandate hearing will be held on Tuesday. Rep. Dave Camp, R-MI, is the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and referred to part-time employees who will see their hours cut as a result of the 30-hour threshold as the “ObamaCare 29ers.”

“Many of these people have either lost or risk losing their full-time status and are being held back through no fault of their own but instead by a misguided law,” Camp stated in a release issued Wednesday.