President Barack Obama plans to veto legislation that would redefine full-time work under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as 40 hours a week, according to a statement he issued Wednesday. The announcement is an early indication that Obama won't be shy in fending off changes to the landmark healthcare law.
“The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 30, the Save American Workers Act, because it would significantly increase the deficit, reduce the number of Americans with employer-based health insurance coverage, and create incentives for employers to shift their employees to part-time work—causing the problem it intends to solve,” according to the statement from the White House.
The proposal would change the definition of full-time work under the ACA from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week for purposes of applying the employer mandate. Supporters of the change, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that the current standard deviates from the widely accepted definition of full-time work and that it provides an incentive for employers to reduce hours to avoid offering healthcare coverage.
Despite Obama's veto threat, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced similar legislation and held a news conference Wednesday to push for passage.
Under the federal healthcare law, businesses with at least 100 employees must offer coverage this year to most workers or face a financial penalty. In 2016, the employer mandate will apply to businesses with 50 or more employees.
The Congressional Budget Office determined that the House bill would increase deficits by $53 billion over a decade, primarily because fewer employers would pay fines. In addition, the nonpartisan agency estimated that 1 million fewer workers would receive healthcare coverage through their jobs.
The House passed identical legislation last year establishing 40 hours a week as the threshold for determining if a worker is full time. It garnered support from 18 House Democrats, but the Senate never took up the bill.
The House is expected to take up the legislation Thursday. Republicans currently hold 247 seats in the House. If all members are voting, overriding a presidential veto would require 291 votes.
With Republicans now in control of both chambers of Congress, the bill is almost certain to land on the president's desk. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) held a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol to push for passage of the bill.
“This isn't about repealing the Affordable Care Act,” said Donnelly, who voted for the federal healthcare law while serving in the House. “This is about strengthening it.”
The senators were joined at the news conference by several industry representatives, including Lisa Harvey-McPherson, vice president for continuum of care at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, a statewide provider network. Harvey-McPherson indicated that the employer mandate, as currently constituted, will force home-care agencies to reduce hours for workers below 30 a week and potentially result in businesses shutting down because of financial struggles.
“This legislation is critically important,” said Harvey-McPherson, who also serves on the board of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. “The current definition of full-time employment averaging 30 hours per week will have a devastating impact on home-care workers and the patients that we serve.”
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