(Bloomberg) — The House of Representatives brushed aside President Barack Obama’s veto threat and passed H.R. 30, a bill that could affect the scope of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) “employer shared responsibility” provision.
The measure, passed 252-172, would require employers to provide coverage to workers who put in at least 40 hours a week. That’s up from the current 30-hour threshold, which Republicans say would cause employers to reduce hours and wages for many workers.
The bill now goes to the newly Republican-led Senate, where the Democratic minority could block the measure.
The PPACA mandate provision requires large and midsize employers to provide a minimum level of coverage for most of their full-time workers or face the threat of having to pay penalties. Large employers are supposed to start collecting worker data for the penalty compliance process this month.
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Today’s House vote shows that the proposal lacks the two-thirds backing needed to override a presidential veto. “We will sustain the president’s veto on that,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said earlier in the day.
The bill represents the Republican Congress’s opening swipe against the Affordable Care Act. Although it is short of an all-out attempt at repeal, promised by House and Senate Republican leaders, previous House votes showed that today’s measure would draw at least a few Democratic crossover votes.
“It is simply unfair to try to finance health care for some hard-working American people on the backs of other hardworking Americans through a reduction in hours and wages,” said Representative Todd Young, an Indiana Republican and the bill’s main sponsor.
By raising the threshold requiring insurance coverage to 40 hours a week, Young said, “we remove this perverse incentive to reduce hours and wages when they are most needed by our hourly workers.”
He cited analysts who say 2.6 million workers in the U.S. earn less than $30,000 a year and are most at risk.
PPACA, passed with no Republican votes, is the president’s signature domestic accomplishment. About 10 million Americans have gained health coverage through expanded employer-based insurance and Medicaid, as well as state or federal insurance exchanges, according to the administration.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the health-care law in 2012 and this year will hear a challenge to tax credits that have helped millions of people afford insurance.
Sen. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said Census data show that the vast majority of U.S. employees work 40 hours or more a week.