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House passes bill redefining full-time work under employer mandate

GOP favors 40-hour work week for requiring insurance coverage over ACA's 30-hour week

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to redefine the full-time work week under the Affordable Care Act in what supporters say is an effort to help companies cope with the employer mandate to provide health insurance.

The bill would change the definition of the full-time work week to 40 hours, up from the 30-hour threshold in the ACA. Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the bill's author, told USA Today that the bill would restore the definition of the work week "that has long been understood to be the gold standard."

With a 30-hour threshold, he added, companies can avoid insuring employees by cutting their hours. That's been the strategy at some hotels and retailers, according to the Wall Street Journal--and it amounts to "trying to finance health insurance for some Americans by cutting hours and wages for other Americans," Young told USA Today.

The bill passed by a 252-172 vote, with 12 Democrats joining 240 Republicans in a "yes" vote. Backers include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Politico reported.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle. To bring the bill to the floor, Republicans need the support of six Democrats. Only two Senate Democrats have come out in support so far, according to Politico. Even more bipartisan support will be needed to override an inevitable veto from the White House, which says a 40-hour work week will only further motivate companies to cut employees' hours so they don't have to insure them, the Journal said.

What's more, as FierceHealthPayer previously reported, the GOP plan to chip away at the employer mandate and the 40-hour work week could backfire.

If the bill passes, the Congressional Budget Office has said, 1 million Americans will be dropped from employer insurance plans. They are likely to turn to the insurance exchanges, Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, Politico noted. This will increase federal spending by more than $53 billion in the next decade.

That has ardent ACA critics such as the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon--the architect of the King v. Burwell lawsuit challenging federal ACA subsidies--wondering if the work week bill makes sense.

In a post on the Cato Institute blog, Cannon suggests that the bill is not "strategically smart," in light of the forthcoming King v. Burwell decision as well as Congressional Republicans' larger goal of repealing the ACA in its entirety.

For more:
- here's the USA Today story
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- here's the Politico story
- read the Cato Institute blog post

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