WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 23, 2013 -
We are well acquainted with the challenges surrounding the employer mandate, which forces businesses to provide government-approved health insurance or pay higher taxes. It seems with each passing day there are new reports of employers facing tough choices thanks to this particular provision in the health care law. The mandate applies to businesses with 50 or more full-time workers and defines such workers as employees who work 30 or more hours per work.
Our two subcommittees have broad jurisdiction over policies governing employee and employer relations. I can’t think of another federal law that considers full-time work as 30 hours. In fact, the Fair Labor Standards Act established the 40-hour work week for the purposes of federal overtime requirements, and it has been a hallmark of America’s workplaces for 75 years. Yet the health care law took a different approach, creating a perverse incentive for businesses to cut hours to avoid higher taxes.
Today roughly 12 million Americans are unemployed; more than 8 million individuals are working part-time hours but need a full-time job. According to Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News and World Report, the president’s health care law shares some of the blame. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Zuckerman describes the growing reliance on part-time workers and writes, “Little wonder that earlier this month the Obama administration announced it is postponing the employer mandate until 2015, undoubtedly to see if the delay will encourage more full-time hiring.”
Mr. Zuckerman goes on to explain, “But thousands of small businesses have been capping employment at 30 hours and not hiring more than 50 full-timers, and the businesses are unlikely to suddenly change that approach just because they received a 12-month reprieve.”
The decision to delay enforcement of the employer mandate is more confirmation that the law is in fact a "train wreck." Republicans have long cited the failings in the law and our concerns have been dismissed as political rhetoric. Yet the more we learn about the law, the more problems we encounter and the bigger the opposition grows. Even union leaders – once strong supporters of the law – are beginning to realize it’s hurting workers.
In a statement released in April, the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers called for “repeal or complete reform” of President Obama’s health care law. According to union President Kinsey Robinson, “In the rush to achieve its passage, many of the act’s provisions were not fully conceived, resulting in unintended consequences that are inconsistent with the promise that those who were satisfied with their employer sponsored coverage could keep it.”
Just recently officials with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE-HERE warned Democratic leaders that without changes the law “will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.” The union representatives continued, “We can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and well-being of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”
Finally, earlier this month the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association wrote to Chairman Kline, “We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as this law imposes increased benefit costs, fees, and new taxes on our plans. In addition, [the health care law] exempts all employers with less than 50 employees from offering health care coverage. This creates a vast competitive disadvantage for the 4,500 NECA contractors nationwide that responsibly provide coverage for their employees.”
I believe we can do better than misguided policies that destroy full-time jobs. As public opposition grows, I am hopeful we can repeal the law and begin developing solutions that will lower health care costs and provide new opportunities for America’s workers.
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