News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

April 3, 2014

House votes for 40-hour workweek

Obama says change from 30 hours under health law would increase deficit; threatens veto

TERRE HAUTE — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 248 to 179 on Thursday in favor of a bill that would repeal the 30-hour definition of full-time employment in the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with the traditional 40-hour definition.

But President Obama says he would veto the legislation because “it would significantly increase the deficit and reduce the number of Americans with employer-based health insurance coverage,” according to a White House statement.

The House bill is HR 2575, the Save American Workers Act. Following the bill’s passage Thursday, Indiana Congressman Larry Bucshon, R-8th, stated in a news release, “I consistently hear from individuals, businesses, school corporations and local governments here in the 8th District that they are struggling under provisions in the ACA.

“One in particular, the 30-hour workweek definition, is estimated to put over 2.6 million Americans at risk of seeing their hours and wages cut,” Bucshon said.

Bucshon said the bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and from the American people. “I sincerely hope the Senate will act immediately to send this bill to President Obama’s desk,” Bucshon said.

Now, the question is whether Senate Democrat leadership will call up the bill — or a similar one introduced by senators Joe Donnelly and Susan Collins — for a vote.

Collins (R-ME) and Donnelly (D-IN) applauded the House’s passage of HR 2575, which is similar to their bill, the Forty Hours is Full Time Act.

“This is a common sense improvement to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would help Hoosier workers and employers,” Donnelly stated in a news release.

Vigo County School Corp. educators support changing the definition of full-time to 40 hours, as opposed to 30 hours. VCSC, and many other districts, have had to cut back hours of classified staff to less than 30 hours for economic reasons.

The district cannot afford to provide insurance for its part-time, classified employees, nor can it afford to pay the penalty if it doesn’t provide insurance to those workers, superintendent Dan Tanoos said last year.

As a result, many VCSC bus drivers, education assistants and cafeteria workers had their hours reduced, and similar cutbacks have occurred in other Indiana school districts.

In a news release, Donnelly stated, “Most Hoosiers would agree that 40 hours is full time, which is why we need to make this change to the definition of ‘full-time’ employee’ in the law. Right now, employers are cutting their employees’ hours in order to follow the law, and that hurts the pocketbooks of many families across our state.  Now that the House has passed this bill, I hope we can work together in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation in the Senate, making the health care law work better for families in Indiana and across America.”

He will continue to work with Collins to generate additional support in the Senate for their Forty Hours is Full Time Act, which already has 12 co-sponsors and has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business owners and organizations.

According to the Associated Press, many Democrats view HR 2575 an attack on the president’s health care law, just days after the law surpassed expectations by signing up more than 7 million Americans.

They suggest the change of definition would make it harder for people to gain coverage through their employer. For example, those who worked 39 hours would not have to be covered by their employer.

A White House statement says the legislation would weaken a provision of the Affordable Care Act that keeps employers from dropping health insurance coverage and shifting the costs to taxpayers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would increase the budget deficit by $73.7 billion over the 2015 to 2024 period.

Also, according to the White House statement, the proposed change would reduce the number of people receiving employer-based coverage by about one million, while increasing the number of uninsured.

According to Heritageaction.com, by moving the employer mandate threshold to 40 hours, HR 2575 could put a whole new class of people into the scenario now faced by those who work 30 or more hours.

“The question for lawmakers is whether this replacement will really make things better for hardworking Americans. On that, the answer is anything but clear as employers could respond to the new rules by shifting even more employees onto the Obamacare exchanges,” said Heritageaction.com, a conservative policy advocacy group.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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