TERRE HAUTE —
Proposed legislation redefining “full-time” as a 40-hour work week under the Affordable Care Act “isn’t about politics. It’s about jobs,” U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) said during a visit Wednesday to Terre Haute.
He met with Scott Womack, owner and franchisee of 15 IHOP restaurants in Indiana and Ohio, whose business stands to benefit from the change in definition.
Currently, federal law defines full-time workers as those putting in 30 hours or more per week. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with 50 or more workers would have to provide health insurance coverage to their full-time employees or risk a series of escalating tax penalties.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration delayed implementation of that mandate by a year to 2015 — another topic of discussion between Donnelly and Womack.
That delay gives Donnelly and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) more time to secure support for their bill, called the “40 Hours is Full-time Act.”
“We’re trying to make this as business friendly as we possibly can,” Donnelly said in remarks to reporters.
Unless the definition is changed to 40 hours, businesses, school districts and other government agencies have talked about reducing hours of part-time workers below 30 hours per week to avoid the insurance requirement, which many say they can’t afford.
Cutting the hours of part-time workers would be harmful to many households and the economy, Donnelly said.
He noted there is a companion bill in the House, and he sees bipartisan support for the change in definition, which he views as “common sense.”
Donnelly also addressed the one-year delay in requiring employers to provide insurance coverage to full-time workers. “I think that’s a real positive step,” good for businesses, workers and the country overall, Donnelly said.
It enables businesses “to catch their breath” so they are able to “make decisions in a thoughtful, reasonable way as opposed to being rushed,” he said.
It also gives Congress time to improve ACA.
Womack said the proposed 40 Hours is Full-time Act “will be a big help for us” if it passes.
“We had committed to not changing hours of staff we have,” he said. The problem would be with new employees coming on board and figuring out how to pay for their coverage.
If the Donnelly-Collins bill passes, “It really takes that issue away,” Womack said. “We won’t have to change that much to adapt to it.”
If the federal health care law and definition of full-time doesn’t change, the Affordable Care Act will be costly to implement, Womack said.
In the restaurant industry, for every $1 million in revenue, “we have three to six times the number of employees other industries have,” he said. “You really take that cost [of implementing the law] and magnify it tremendously.”
Also, “A lot of our part-time staff have told us they don’t know how they would pay for the insurance. They were not prepared to start paying $1,800 a year for a health plan, the deductibles and everything that goes with it,” he said.
Womack said he appreciated Donnelly’s efforts to address the concerns of businesses, including the restaurant industry.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or email@example.com.