The U.S. House of Representatives voted 248 to 179 to redefine how the healthcare reform law defines full-time employees, raising the bar to 40 hours from 30 hours a week.
Eighteen Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the change.
The bill—the Save American Workers Act—aims to make it less likely that companies will cut employees' hours in order to avoid having to subsidize their health insurance. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
requires that employers with 50 or more full-time workers offer employees health insurance. The employer mandate has been delayed until 2016 for organizations with 100 or more employees and until 2015 for those with 50-99.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), has claimed that 2.6 million people could see their hours cut as a result of the 30-hour provision, citing findings from the conservative Hoover Institution.
The White House said President Barack Obama would veto the legislation (PDF)
. In a statement of policy, the administration cited an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office finding that raising the work-hour threshold would increase the federal deficit by $74 billion from 2015 to 2024 by shifting the burden of subsidizing coverage from employers to taxpayers.
The National Association for Homecare & Hospice has aggressively supported the bill. Its members would be forced to trim employees' workweeks to 29 hours or less because home-care providers can't afford to pay for insurance with the rates they are paid.
The CBO estimated that Young's bill would lead to 1 million people losing their employer-based insurance coverage in the 10-year period ending in 2024.
Hours before the vote, the conservative Heritage Foundation posted a message on its website warning that many of those 1 million people the CBO said would lose coverage would jump to Medicaid in the states that have extended the program.
“Conservatives should be doing everything they can to limit Obamacare's new entitlement rolls, and should be wary of creating new disruptions in an already fragile labor market,” said the think tank, which favors outright repeal of the law.
Young hopes passage of his bill with some support from Democrats will spur Senate action.
A similarly worded bill dubbed the Forty Hours is Full-Time Act was introduced last summer in the Senate. Its lead sponsors, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), said Thursday that they would continue to work for its passage. Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHvdickson