Of all of the unintended consequences of Obamacare—and there are plenty to go around—perhaps the most egregious is the number of people who are losing hours at work. Working fewer hours, of course, means making bringing home a smaller paycheck, and the hourly employees most affected tend to need that money the most. Somewhat ironically, they also tend to be the same low- and middle-income Americans Obamacare was ostensibly supposed to help.
This unintended consequence is the result of the employer mandate requiring employers with more than 50 employees to provide insurance to all full-time employees. The problem is that full-time employment is only defined as 30 hours—not the historically understood and well-established 40 hour standard.
Predictably, employers have cut the hours of many employees to stay under that threshold with as many as 2.6 million Americans at risk. Those seeing hours reduced from 39 to 29 hours are essentially seeing a 25% pay cut—an entire week’s worth of pay each month—courtesy of Obamacare. The workers we’re talking about are custodians, cafeteria workers and substitute teachers at your child’s school. They are the waitresses and busboys at your favorite restaurant, the cashier who rings you out at the grocery store, and the men and women on the assembly line who help make your car. In my district, we’re also talking about adjunct professors at places like Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University.
In the interest of protecting the hours and wages of those workers, the House today will cast one of its first Obamacare-related votes on legislation I’ve authored to repeal Obamacare’s full-time definition and replace it with the traditional 40-hour workweek. This isn’t a partisan exercise: Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, has joined me in the House in introducing this bill; in the Senate, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) introduced similar legislation last Congress.
Nonetheless, some Democrats have ignored the growing bipartisan support for this bill in an attempt to paint this as a purely Republican effort. They argue that moving the threshold to 40 hours would result in people seeing hours cut from 40 to 39. But consider the following: The average American works roughly 34 hours per week. In the service sector, where more employees tend to be paid hourly, it’s around 33 hours. That means that a 30-hour threshold puts the average American at risk, while a 40-hour threshold would protect their current hours and wages.
Additionally, 40 hours is already the standard for salaried employees, for many other benefits like retirement accounts and pension funds, and for federally-required overtime pay kicks in. If the 40-hour threshold were that tenuous, employees would have been reduced to 39 hours long before Obamacare. Restoring the 40-hour definition merely conforms to currently accepted practice; because it doesn’t distort the labor market the way the 30-hour definition does, it would be a gross exaggeration to expect it to have a similar impact.
In the end, this argument is just a distraction from the real problems hardworking Americans are facing as a result of Obamacare. Starting off the new Congress by voting on this bills shows that House Republicans are serious about providing relief from this law by repealing or replacing every provision we can.
— Rep. Todd Young (R-IN)