The Republican-controlled Congress’ first vote to alter the unpopular health-care law is already under attack.
The GOP has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to change Obamacare’s unusual definition of the full-time work week from 30 hours to 40 hours. That would decrease the number of workers caught by Obamacare’s employer mandate, which the administration is just beginning to implement this year.
The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday, while legislation should be introduced in the now-Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday.
But White House press secretary Josh Earnest promised Tuesday that President Obama will veto the change if its passed by both houses. The White House threatened to veto a similar effort in 2014.
“This proposed change would actually do a lot of harm, not just to the Affordable Care Act but to a substantial number of workers around the country,” Earnest said Tuesday.
Restoring the full-time work week to 40 hours “would be putting even more workers in a situation where we could see some employers cutting back on their hours to try to avoid the requirement of providing them quality health insurance.”
The low-ball definition of a full-time work week has pushed some employers who don’t provide health insurance to those employees to cut their workers hours instead of incurring thousands in new health insurance costs. According to a number of surveys done by Federal Reserve banks across the country, businesses are shrinking full-time employees’ schedules to part-time work as a result of Obamacare regulations; others have halted hiring altogether. (RELATED: Philly Fed: Obamacare’s Increasing Part-Time Work)
But there’s a catch. National Review’s Yuval Levin argued against the change in November, as Earnest pointed out Tuesday — but not because the employer mandate is good policy. The GOP’s change would put an even larger group of workers near the cut-off for mandatory health coverage and at risk for having their hours cut, according to Levin.
Around 3 million Americans work between 30 and 34 hours a week and about 4 million work between 35 and 39 hours, and these are the workers currently at most risk for having their hours cut to avoid the mandate. But were the employer mandate rewritten to include just those who work 40 or more hours a week, the 29 million Americans who work between 40 and 44 hours a week would be in line for cuts as well.
While Earnest attacked congressional Republicans for trying to allow businesses to get out of offering health coverage, critics on the right, such as Levin, support repealing the employer mandate as a whole.