Senator Collins, along with and Senators Donnelly, Manchin and Murkowski Introduce Legislation Amending the ACA to Establish 40 Hours a Week as Full Time Employment

Senator Collins, along with and Senators Donnelly, Manchin and Murkowski Introduce Legislation Amending the ACA to Establish 40 Hours a Week as Full Time Employment

January 8, 2015 02:12 PM
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the all powerful Senate Special Committee on Aging, along with Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and NAHC Board Member Lisa Harvey McPherson

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the all powerful Senate Special Committee on Aging, along with three of her colleagues Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), yesterday introduced legislation to cancel the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 30 hour definition of full time work and return the U.S. to the more universally accepted standard of 40 hours a week.

At her press conference yesterday Senator Collins said, “The ACA law creates a perverse incentive for businesses to cut their employees’ hours so they are no longer considered “full time.” Our concerns are not hypothetical; more than 450 employers have already cut work hours or staffing levels in response to the law as of September 2013. Employees of for-profit businesses are not the only ones who are threatened by this illogical definition of full-time work. In Maine, I have heard from organizations like home care agencies, hospitals, and school departments. Our goal is simple. We want to protect part-time workers from having their hours reduced and their paychecks cut because of the definition in this law.”

The Collins legislation, “Forty Hours Is Full Time Act,” S. 30, has been strongly supported by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) most recently in a letter from President Val J. Halamandaris, whose quotes are found below, and by the participation of NAHC Board Member Lisa Harvey McPherson who chairs NAHC’s affiliate the Voluntary Nonprofit Home Care Association of America. Ms. McPherson said in her statement at the conference:

“This legislation is critically important… The current definition of “full time employment” will have a devastating impact on home care workers and the patients that we serve… With the oldest population in the country, the demand for home care [in Maine] exceeds the capacity of the volume of workers that we have today. It is also important to note that many of the patients that we care for at home qualify to live in a nursing facility, but with home care support workers, home care aides and home care nurses, they can avoid or delay nursing home placement…

A recent survey of home and community-based care providers in Maine shows the devastating impact of this legislation. Home care providers will be forced to reduce the numbers of workers and hours so that the average falls below the 30-hour requirement. This will have a devastating impact on rural Maine communities, as providers will be forced to restrict the service delivery radius that they care for. The change will also increase waitlists for services with fewer hours and fewer workers available. We also know that there are home care providers in Maine that will simply have to close their business.”

Senator Joe Donnelly, the lead co-sponsor of S. 30 highlighted the bottom line and negative impact that the 30 hour threshold has created in a range of different sectors:

“In Indiana, common wisdom is that full-time is a 40-hour work week, and the health care law should reflect that. From grocery store employees to school cafeteria managers to adjunct professors at colleges, part-time workers across many industries have seen their hours cut to comply with the health care law. This is impacting their pocketbooks and ability to make ends meet or save for the future.”

Added Senator Donnelly, “we are looking to make this law a little bit better. One of our concerns is for the families in our states…This isn’t about repealing the Affordable Care Act. This is about strengthening it.”

NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris forcefully indicated his support for improving the ACA by enacting S. 30 saying:

“The home care and hospice community has no better friend than Senator Susan Collins, and her reintroduction of this bill further solidifies her reputation as a fighter for the infirm, disabled and elderly not just in Maine but across the country. Home care agencies that are unable to provide health insurance or absorb the ACA penalties will have to restrict their employees to no more than 29 hours per week to ensure their workers are considered part-time under the ACA. A survey that NAHC concluded in December 2014 showed that the employer mandate would weaken patient access to care, reduce wages and working hours of home care staff, and require home care companies to restructure their operations to rely on part-time caregivers.”

The December 2014 survey that Mr. Halamandaris referenced revealed some startling findings, including:

  • 82.54% of home care and hospice companies do not provide health insurance to all of ?their employees because of reliance on government program payments and service to ?individuals with limited incomes ?
  • 46.2% of those companies face a financial penalty under the employer mandate ranging ?as high as $4.5 million ?
  • 73.3% of the companies would reduce the working hours of employees to under 30 per ?week in order to avoid the cost of health insurance or financial penalties that they cannot ?afford ?
  • 22.16% of the businesses expect to close because of the financial penalties ?
  • 83.2% of the companies expect that access to home care in their community would be ?reduced with fewer providers of care, more restrictive patient admission criteria to fit a ?part-time workforce, and restrictions on service areas
  • 88.46% expect that access to Medicaid home care will no longer be sufficient to meet ?client’s needs ?

The House of Representatives is poised to pass its own version of this legislation this week. President Obama has already stated that he will veto such legislation, though Senators Collins and Donnelly are hopeful that the President will reconsider the Senate’s version based on its commonsense, bipartisan nature. Said Senator Collins, “I hope he will reconsider his veto threat and actually look at the bill… This is having an impact on businesses and workers right now…people were shocked when they found out that full time is considered a 30 hour workweek under the ACA.”

Halamandaris asked the members of NAHC to send emails of thanks to the four Senators and particular to Senator Collins and to contact their Senators from both parties urging them to support S. 30, the “Forty Hours Is Full Time Act.” To read NAHC’s full letter, please click here. For more details on what happened at the press conference, please click here.