WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would change the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time work week from 30 to 40 hours.
The Save American Workers Act passed with a strong majority, 248-179, including 18 Democrats who joined with 230 Republicans.
“While the president and Senate Democrats continue their minimum wage push, they turn a blind eye to the devastation of their own health care law,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said on the House floor. “This part of Obamacare has resulted in 25 percent less take home pay for millions of American workers.”
Obamacare mandates that all employers with more than 50 workers provide health insurance coverage for full-time employees—defined as those working 30 hours or more per week.
Thursday’s vote comes in response to overwhelming evidence that companies are cutting employee hours to get under the 30-hour threshold. A recent Duke University CFO survey found nearly half of more than 1,000 companies surveyed were reluctant to hire new full-time employees, and more than 40 percent said they would shift toward part-time workers.
“An unintended consequence of the Affordable Care Act will be a reduction in full-time employment growth in the United States,” said Duke professor John Graham.
In February, the Congressional Budget office estimated the law will cost the economy the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time jobs.
Last year, three major labor unions sent a letter to Democratic leaders citing the 30-hour work week as one of the “perverse incentives” in the law. It appears some of them are listening: A Senate version of the bill has 14 cosponsors, including Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
It’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will kill the legislation in committee or allow it to come to the floor for a vote. Critics say the legislation will result in fewer people with health insurance.
“That’s a great deal for the CEO of McDonalds,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. “But it’s a terrible deal for American workers.”