WASHINGTON – The House voted last week to change the definition of "full time work" in the Affordable Care Act, the latest bid by Republicans to alter the landmark health care law.
Lawmakers voted 248-179, largely along party lines, to change "fulltime" from 30 hours a week in the law to 40 hours a week. Critics of the law argued companies were limiting the hours of workers to avoid requirements to provide coverage to "fulltime" employees.
"This provision in Obamacare is a perfect example of how the law hurts the very people it was intended to help," said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark. "Because of Obamacare’s mandates and taxes, employers are cutting workers’ hours and are replacing full-time folks with part-time folks.
"Even in France, a full-time job is 35 hours a week," Griffin said.
Democrats pointed to a Congressional Budget Office report that said about 1 million people would lose employer-provided health care and that the number of uninsured would increase by almost 500,000 if the work definitions were changed.
"It is not Obamacare that decides how much somebody works, it’s the person who runs the company," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted for the bill.
The Democrat-controlled Senate was expected to ignore the bill and the White House threatened a veto if it managed to pass Congress. The bill marked the 52nd time Republicans have tried to repeal or alter the Affordable Care Act.
Congress completes "doc fix"
The Senate gave final approval to a bill that averts a 24 percent reduction in government payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.
The so-called "doc fix" bill passed 64-35 after passing earlier in the House. It was signed into law in time to avoid an April 1 deadline when the cuts would automatically occur based on formula Congress set in 1997.
The "sustainable growth rate" formula was put in place to control costs. But lawmakers have acted almost routinely to set aside the scheduled cuts, saying they fear the reduced payments would lead doctors to drop Medicare patients.
Congress has been unable to come up with a plan to change the formula once and for all. Some of the senators voting against the so-called "doc fix" bill said its cost would be offset by questionable savings elsewhere.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted for the "doc fix" bill. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., voted against it.