House passes bill that raises Obamacare mandate for insurance coverage to 40 hours

As expected, the House voted 252-177 to raise the number of hours an employee must work to be covered by his employer's insurance from 30 to 40 hours.  The bill has an uncertain future in the Senate and will almost certainly be vetoed by the president if it reaches his desk.

The practical effect of the bill is to virtually eliminate the employer mandate.  But another effect of the bill will be to save hundreds of thousands of full-time jobs, as employers now don't have to cut the hours of their employees in order to exempt them from the mandate.

The Hill:

The legislation – which has been at the center of a heavy corporate lobbying campaign – only received 12 Democratic votes. Eighteen Democrats backed the bill during a House vote on the same issue last spring. 

No Republicans opposed the measure.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, which strikes at the healthcare law’s mandate that businesses provide insurance.

The legislation is the GOP’s first chance to deliver an anti-ObamaCare bill to the president’s desk. It will now advance to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised it will see a vote.

Republicans said the current statute gives employers an incentive to cut workers' hours to avoid paying fines as a result of the healthcare law. The healthcare law imposes fees on businesses that do not provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours per week. 

“The law punishes employers who provide workers with full-time jobs,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.).

But Democrats argued that increasing the healthcare law’s definition of a full-time workweek would result in more employees being forced to work more hours and still not be eligible for insurance.

“This bill will allow you to work 10 more hours without health care. Isn't that wonderful?” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“I'm sure every American worker is saying, 'Thank God the Republicans are going to have me work 10 more hours before I can get health insurance. Aren't you generous,’” Hoyer added. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) charged that 39 hours would still be an improvement for average employees than being limited to working 29 hours per week.

“Well, 39 is a lot better than 29. And guess what, the majority of Americans are at 34 hours. Going to 40 puts them above that,” Ryan said.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Wednesday that the bill would increase the deficit by about $46 billion because it would lower the number of companies liable for penalties and therefore reduce government revenues.

Multiple GOP lawmakers, including McConnell, were quick to dismiss the estimates. They argue businesses are cutting hours to their workers because of the requirement.

The CBO may have overstated the amount that will be added to the deficit, but it will certainly be considerable.  Thousands of businesses who would have been forced to pay the fine for not covering their employees would be off the hook if this bill becomes law.

Obama and the Democrats are now left with defending businesses who cut their employees' hours to avoid the mandate.  For many small businesses, they have no choice.  It ends up being the difference between profit and loss if a business can hire more part-time workers whom it doesn't have to provide insurance coverage to do the work of fewer full-timers.

The number of part-time jobs in America is now at record levels, at least partly because of the employer mandate.  As long as it's in place, companies will continue to do what they have to do in order to survive.

As expected, the House voted 252-177 to raise the number of hours an employee must work to be covered by his employer's insurance from 30 to 40 hours.  The bill has an uncertain future in the Senate and will almost certainly be vetoed by the president if it reaches his desk.

The practical effect of the bill is to virtually eliminate the employer mandate.  But another effect of the bill will be to save hundreds of thousands of full-time jobs, as employers now don't have to cut the hours of their employees in order to exempt them from the mandate.

The Hill:

The legislation – which has been at the center of a heavy corporate lobbying campaign – only received 12 Democratic votes. Eighteen Democrats backed the bill during a House vote on the same issue last spring. 

No Republicans opposed the measure.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, which strikes at the healthcare law’s mandate that businesses provide insurance.

The legislation is the GOP’s first chance to deliver an anti-ObamaCare bill to the president’s desk. It will now advance to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised it will see a vote.

Republicans said the current statute gives employers an incentive to cut workers' hours to avoid paying fines as a result of the healthcare law. The healthcare law imposes fees on businesses that do not provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours per week. 

“The law punishes employers who provide workers with full-time jobs,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.).

But Democrats argued that increasing the healthcare law’s definition of a full-time workweek would result in more employees being forced to work more hours and still not be eligible for insurance.

“This bill will allow you to work 10 more hours without health care. Isn't that wonderful?” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“I'm sure every American worker is saying, 'Thank God the Republicans are going to have me work 10 more hours before I can get health insurance. Aren't you generous,’” Hoyer added. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) charged that 39 hours would still be an improvement for average employees than being limited to working 29 hours per week.

“Well, 39 is a lot better than 29. And guess what, the majority of Americans are at 34 hours. Going to 40 puts them above that,” Ryan said.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Wednesday that the bill would increase the deficit by about $46 billion because it would lower the number of companies liable for penalties and therefore reduce government revenues.

Multiple GOP lawmakers, including McConnell, were quick to dismiss the estimates. They argue businesses are cutting hours to their workers because of the requirement.

The CBO may have overstated the amount that will be added to the deficit, but it will certainly be considerable.  Thousands of businesses who would have been forced to pay the fine for not covering their employees would be off the hook if this bill becomes law.

Obama and the Democrats are now left with defending businesses who cut their employees' hours to avoid the mandate.  For many small businesses, they have no choice.  It ends up being the difference between profit and loss if a business can hire more part-time workers whom it doesn't have to provide insurance coverage to do the work of fewer full-timers.

The number of part-time jobs in America is now at record levels, at least partly because of the employer mandate.  As long as it's in place, companies will continue to do what they have to do in order to survive.