On Thursday, the House of Representatives readily approved by a vote of 252-172 the Save American Workers Act of 2015 (H.R. 30), a bill that would increase from 30 to 40 the number of hours an employee must work per week to be considered “full-time” under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). How many employees are considered full-time under the ACA is important for determining whether the employer meets the 50-employee threshold triggering the law’s pay-or-play shared responsibility mandate. Critics of the ACA’s 30-hour-per-week definition have claimed it will encourage employers to reduce employee hours and/or hiring in order to remain below the pay-or-play mandate floor. While changing the definition has received some bipartisan support, the bill still must clear a Senate hurdle and the President’s veto pen.
Last year, the House also voted in favor of the Save American Workers Act, but the Democratic-controlled Senate did not take up the measure. Earlier this week, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) reintroduced a companion bill, the 40 Hours is Full-Time Act (S. 30). Although the Senate is now under Republican control, it might be difficult for the bill’s supporters to garner the 60 votes needed to prevent an expected filibuster. Assuming all Republican senators vote in favor of the bill, they would still need at least six Democratic members to support it as well. Even if the Senate ultimately approves the bill, President Obama has already threatened to veto it.
The House vote comes a day after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report stating the Save American Workers Act would reduce employer penalties and increase employee subsidies to purchase insurance through health exchanges, adding $53.2 billion to the U.S. deficit over the next decade.
While the new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear that amending the ACA is a Senate priority, supporters of the 40-hour/week definition will have their work cut out for them.