The Republican-led House of Representatives didn’t waste any time smashing a symbolic hole in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Last week, the House approved a bill that would redefine a full work week for purposes of triggering a requirement of PPACA. When the law originally took effect, it defined the full work week for purposes of health coverage as 30 hours. It was among the most contentious elements of the law, and led to the creation of “More Time for Full Time,” an organization of organizations opposed to it.
MTFFT members included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, SHRM, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Theatre Owners — nine “coalition partners” in all representing untold thousands of employers.
If these business owners and others opposed to the 30-hour work week weren’t dancing in the streets upon the bill’s approval, they were certainly celebrating the event with a blizzard of press releases and statements of support for the bill’s backers.
“The National Restaurant Association applauds the House passage of the ‘Save American Workers Act.’ We have long supported this bipartisan effort to set the definition of full-time under the ACA to 40-hours per week, reflecting more traditional workforce patterns — an issue critical to our industry,” the NRA said in a statement. “We appreciate the leadership of Representatives Young and Lipinski in pushing this bill forward on both sides of the aisle.”
The NRA noted that the bill’s supporters firmly believed the 30-hour week wasn’t helping anyone get health coverage. Instead, the NRA and others argued, the 30-hour cutoff led many employers to cut back the hours of people they considered to be part-timers to less than 30 hours to avoid triggering the law’s requirements.
“Retailers have voluntarily offered health care coverage to their employees and their families for decades and restoring the historic 40-hour work week threshold is critical to allowing them to continue to offer this coverage,” said Christine Pollack, the Retail Industry Leaders Association vice president of government affairs.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association praised the House action and said offering employers, and employees, the flexibility to adjust hours between 30 and 40 a week was critical to the success of many lodging providers.
“The health care law’s existing — and arbitrary — 30-hour definition severely restricts the scheduling flexibility so valuable to our industry’s workforce. In many instances, these employees may end up taking a second job in order to make up the income shortfall caused by fewer working hours,” AH&LA president and CEO Katherine Lugar said.
Indeed, it’s the employers on the smaller end of the scale that were likely to suffer the most from the arbitrary decision to change the standard work week from 40 to 30 hours, said Brian Marcotte, President and CEO of the National Business Group on Health.
“We believe this change will boost employment, increase opportunities for people working part-time to add hours, and help the economy, particularly for smaller employers and those employers in retail, hospitality and other service industries,” he said.
Trade associations representing retailers had pulled out the stops in the past week to lobby House members to pass the bill. The National Association of Convenience Stores, for instance, sent more than 500 messages to 244 House members in two days, pushing for the bill’s passage.
But the House version alone won’t change anything. Many among the lobbying groups have higher hopes this year for relief from the 30-hour requirement.
“Last year, the House passed the same legislation but it was ignored by the Senate. However, under the new Republican-controlled Senate, it is much more likely that this legislation will see consideration in that chamber as well,” the National Association of Convenience Stores said in a statement.
But even if the Senate follows up as expected, the White House may force the legislation back down the pipeline. President Obama has said he will consider vetoing this first major attack on PPACA, thus setting the stage for another round of sparring over how many hours makes for a full work week in America.