GOP serves up economic double whammy

Jan 7, 2015 Issues: Economy, Health Care

House Republicans are bringing up a double whammy on Thursday – ending health care from their employer or altogether for millions of Americans and hugely increasing the deficit by nearly $46 billion over 10 years. The legislation they’ve proposed would amend the employer responsibility provisions of the Affordable Care Act to redefine full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40 hours.

The 30-hour threshold in the Affordable Care Act was designed to minimize the likelihood that employers would avoid the law’s requirement of health coverage. Increasing the number of hours to 40 would make it significantly easier to shift workers into part-time status by just a slight reduction of hours. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, redefining full-time work as 40 hours would place more than five times as many workers at risk of having their hours cut so that their employers can avoid providing health insurance. Only a small share of today’s workforce – roughly seven percent – works between 30 and 34 hours a week, putting them most at risk of having their hours cut below the current 30-hour threshold, while approximately 44 percent work 40 hours a week.

This legislation would also add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit. In July 2014, the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation – federal organizations tasked with providing nonpartisan analyses for Congress – estimated that changing the definition of full-time to 40 hours would increase the deficit by nearly $46 billion over the next 10 years. Furthermore, these organizations estimated that the legislation would reduce the number of people receiving employment-based coverage by about one million, increase the number of people receiving insurance through public programs like Medicaid by more than 500,000, and increase the number of uninsured by up to 500,000. 

Some conservatives, even those opposed to any employer mandate, are speaking out against the legislation. Yuval Levin, a conservative commentator, wrote in the National Journal that redefining full-time work to 40 hours “would make for a worse effect on workers and on the economy. So by setting the definition lower, Obamacare’s architects were trying to mitigate the damaging effects of the employer mandate some, and by setting it higher Republicans would be worsening those effects.”

This legislation to change the definition of full-time work continues the Republican propaganda campaign that asserts that the Affordable Care Act is bad for the economy, bad for employers, and bad for workers.  But the evidence shows otherwise.  In fact, independent fact checkers have refuted the Republican claim that health reform will “kill jobs.”  Since enactment of the health law, the United States has added almost 11 million jobs to the private sector. In the past year alone, the number of full-time workers has grown by more than four million, while the number of part-time workers has actually decreased by more than 800,000.

Republicans’ answer to taking away health care is to take away American jobs. It’s high time that they put the economy and the middle class first.

Levin has represented congressional districts in the Detroit suburbs of Michigan since 1983. He is ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee.

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