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White House Veto Threat Makes A Pretty Good Case Against Obamacare’s Employer Mandate

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As expected, the White House issued a formal veto threat Wednesday against the first change the Republican Congress hopes to make to Obamacare — but oddly enough, used conservatives’ arguments against the law’s employer mandate at large.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that President Obama intends to veto the bill. House Republicans are expected to vote on a bill Thursday that will change the health-care law’s definition of “full-time” employment to 40 hours per week from 30 hours, greatly affecting the number of businesses caught by the employer mandate, which requires all companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance.

Earnest pointed to a conservative argument against the change, which actually calls for the all-out repeal of the employer mandate. Critics of the change on the right have argued that the employer mandate provides an incentive for employers to cut workers’ hours and warn that by upping the definition of the “full-time” work, more people will be adversely affected — millions more Americans work just over 40 hours week and would be more likely to have their hours cut than work 30 hours a week.

The White House statement on the legislation appears to admit that the employer mandate does adversely affect those hourly employees.

“While the Administration appreciates the concerns that result from the current 30-hour definition of full-time work, there is no evidence that this has caused a broad shift to part-time work to date,” the White House wrote in a statement of administration policy on the House’s legislation. (RELATED: Federal Reserve Banks Agree Obamacare Is Hurting Business) 

“By moving the threshold to 40 hours, this legislation could cause the problem it claims to solve by greatly increasing the number of workers for whom employers may have an incentive to reduce hours to avoid the requirement.”

“While the administration welcomes ideas to improve the law, H.R. 30 would shift costs to taxpayers, put workers’ hours at risk, and disrupt health insurance coverage,” the statement concludes.

While the bill in question would change the group of people hurt by the employer mandate, it doesn’t change how the mandate works. By admitting that an Obamacare that defines full-time work at 40 hours per week would “shift costs to taxpayers, put workers’ hours at risk, and disrupt health insurance coverage,” the White House seems to be acknowledging that Obamacare that considers 30 hours a week “full-time” does the same — albeit for a smaller, quieter group of Americans.

A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.

The White House cited a Congressional Budget Office summary of the bill Wednesday, which concludes that changing the employer mandate would, overall, increase the number of uninsured Americans by less than 500,000 people. CBO predicts that 1 million fewer Americans would have employer-sponsored health insurance if the bill passes, while between 500,000 and 1 million would get new coverage through Medicaid, Obamacare exchanges, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Because fewer employers will have to pay taxes for choosing not to provide health coverage, the bill would increase budget deficits by $18.1 billion between 2015 and 2020, the CBO found.

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