Senators push for health law change on part-time workers

A group of Senators in both parties is asking for action by Congress in coming weeks on a plan that would redefine how workers are treated under the Obama health law, worried that it is forcing many employees into part-time jobs.

"Effective health care reform should expand access to coverage, while not inhibiting economic growth," read a letter from the group to top budget negotiators, asking for an end to requirements that force businesses to offer health coverage for anyone working 30 hours a week.

The four Senators signing this letter were: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

They argue setting the definition of a "full-time" employee at 40 hours a week - instead of 30 - would stop businesses from cutting hours for their workers in order to avoid offering health insurance.

"This sensible definition would help protect millions of employees from having their hours curtailed," their letter stated.

The full text of the letter follows:

November 6, 2013

The Honorable Patty Murray                                                    The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Chairman                                                                                            Ranking Member
Committee on the Budget                                                           Committee on the Budget
624 Dirksen Senate Office Building                                        624 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510                                                                Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Sessions:

During consideration of S. Con Res 8 in March, the Senate adopted SA 144, calling for a sensible definition of "full-time employee" for purposes of calculating the Employer Mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). We have since introduced the "Forty Hours is Full-Time Act" (S. 1188), bipartisan legislation to set the PPACA's definition of "full-time employee" at 40 hours per week. We urge you to seek adoption of a budget resolution that would accommodate the budgetary effects of this legislation in the upcoming Budget conference with the House.

Effective health care reform should expand access to coverage, while not inhibiting economic growth. For this reason, we are concerned that the PPACA definition of full time as an employee working just 30 hours a week is too low and out-of-step with standard employment practices in the U.S. today.  Data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American works 8.8 hours per day, which equates to 44 hours per week.  The PPACA definition is nearly one-third lower than actual practice.

By using a threshold of 30 hours a week to define "full time" employee, PPACA artificially drives up the number of workers that appear to be employed "full-time" by a business, exposing those businesses to the risk of substantial penalties. These penalties begin at $40,000 for businesses with 50 employees, plus $2,000 for each additional "full-time equivalent" employee. As a consequence, some businesses have reduced their employees' work to 29 hours per week, to ensure workers are considered "part time" for purposes of PPACA.  If more businesses follow suit, millions of American workers could find their hours and their earnings reduced.

S. 1188 would set the PPACA's definition of "full-time" employee at 40 hours a week, and would make a matching adjustment in the monthly hours used to calculate "full time equivalent" employee. This sensible definition will help protect millions of employees from having their hours curtailed as a result of the PPACA's arbitrary and unreasonable definition of "full time" employee.
                
                We thank you for your consideration of our request.
                
                                                                                                Sincerely,

Susan M. Collins
United States Senator
                                                                                                
Joe Donnelly
United States Senator

Lisa Murkowski
United States Senator
                                                                                                
Joe Manchin
United States Senator

A group of Senators in both parties is asking for action by Congress in coming weeks on a plan that would redefine how workers are treated under the Obama health law, worried that it is forcing many employees into part-time jobs. "Effective health care reform should expand access to coverage, ...

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