The Hill: GOP senator: O-Care's employer mandate would lower US work ethic

Posted on January 22, 2015

A top Senate Republican says lowering the definition of a full-time employee to anyone who works 30 hours or more per week would lower the nation's work ethic.

"It is a strange definition — one that sounds more like France than the United States,” Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Thursday during ahearing.

At issue is a provision of ObamaCare known as the employer mandate that would require businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance for those workers.

ObamaCare defines "full-time" as 30 hours per week, so that more employees are covered.

Democrats say this is a much-needed protection for workers.

But Republicans argue this will provide businesses with an incentive to cut workers’ hours below 30.

Alexander pointed to a study that says 2.6 million workers could have their hours cut, or even lose their jobs, under the changes.

"Many businesses can’t afford ObamaCare’s mandate and must reduce their number of full-time employees,” the Tennessee Republican said. "The result of all this is that thousands of workers are getting a pay cut. Their work schedules are being reduced to 29 hours a week and below.”

House Republicans two weeks ago passed a measure that would restore the definition to 40 hours per week and waive the penalties for companies that do not offer health insurance to employees working fewer than 40 hours per week.

The Senate is now considering similar legislation introduced by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

Alexander said Thursday he hopes it will "repair the damage of ObamaCare.”

But the top Democrat on the Health Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.),  said hundreds of thousands of workers would lose access to health insurance if Republicans succeed in changing the definition to 40 hours per week.

“They shouldn’t have to worry about their healthcare coverage being threatened,” Murray said. “We should be rewarding hard work, not punishing it."