Sen. Collins pushes for change in Obamacare
August 3rd, 2013
06:00 AM ET
1 year ago

Sen. Collins pushes for change in Obamacare

(CNN) - While some Republican senators are calling for Congress to defund Obamacare altogether, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine used the GOP weekly address Saturday to call for an adjustment in the health care law, not a rejection of the law in its entirety.

Collins takes issue with the Affordable Care Act's characterization of a full-time employee as someone who works 30 hours a week.

The president's health care reform, which was passed by Congress in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court last year, will require businesses that employ at least 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance or face a penalty, starting in 2015. The provision was originally supposed to kick in next year, but the administration delayed it to give employers more time to prepare for the change.

Collins said the 30-hour mark for "full-time" employees will "only cause some businesses to reluctantly reduce the hours of their workers to fewer than 30 hours per week."

She gave an example of a school system in Maine that is already "preparing to track and cap the number of hours that substitute teachers can work to ensure that they don't work more than 29 hours a week."

"Fewer hours means less money in the teachers' paychecks and more disruption for their students," she added.

She introduced a bill, "Forty Hours is Full Time Act," in April that seeks to modify the federal definition of a full-time employee.

"Of course, fixing this one flaw won't solve the countless problems caused by Obamacare. But it would help ensure that millions of American workers do not have their hours, and their paychecks, reduced," she said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney argued in a press briefing last month that there is no data to indicate businesses are not hiring full-time employees because of the 30-hour mark.

"I would say broadly that if you look at the economic data, the suggestion that the ACA is reducing full-time employment is belied by the facts," he said.

Read a transcript of the senator’s full remarks below:

“Hello. I’m Senator Susan Collins from Maine.

“My family founded a small business in northern Maine more than 160 years ago. Today, it continues to be run by two of my brothers.

“Our economy is built on millions of enterprises just like ours. It’s not easy to survive in today’s economy. But these employers remain our nation’s job creators. We should be doing all we can to promote policies to help them survive and thrive.

“Effective health-care reform should provide Americans with access to quality and affordable care while also encouraging economic growth. That’s not what is happening under Obamacare.

“Instead, Obamacare is actually discouraging small businesses from creating jobs and hiring new employees. The law also has perverse incentives for employers to reduce the number of hours that their employees can work.

“While most small business owners want to provide health insurance for their employees, many simply cannot afford to under Obamacare. Yet, even struggling businesses with 50 or more “full-time” employees will be required to provide health insurance or face huge fines for each employee. If you employ 49 workers, there are no fines. But, if you add just one more employee, you’re hit with penalties.

“These enormous penalties are a real threat to employers who want to add jobs. They are a powerful incentive for employers to refrain from hiring additional workers. Even worse, under Obamacare, anyone working an average of just 30 hours a week is considered “full-time.” This will only cause some businesses to reluctantly reduce the hours of their workers to fewer than 30 hours per week.

“And, it’s not just the private sector that is affected. Let me give you an example. A school system in my state of Maine is already preparing to track and cap the number of hours that substitute teachers can work to ensure that they don’t work more than 29 hours a week. Fewer hours means less money in the teachers’ paychecks and more disruption for their students.

“Recently, labor leaders, led by Teamsters President James Hoffa, warned that Obamacare will – and I quote – destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class. – end quote -.

“They are right to be worried: In the past, most new jobs were full-time. But, this year, the overwhelming majority of new jobs are part-time.

“Under this troubling trend, more workers will find their hours and their earnings reduced. Jobs will be lost. This is especially disturbing as our country is still battling high unemployment.

“A study published by the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, underscores the danger. That study found that 10 million American workers are vulnerable to having their hours cut as a direct result of Obamacare. 10 million workers! And the most vulnerable are lower-income employees.

“In an effort to protect these millions of workers, I’ve introduced a bipartisan bill called the “Forty Hours is Full Time Act.” My bill would change the definition of “full-time employee” in Obamacare from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week. A 40-hour work week is full-time; we all know that. This bill is just common sense.

“Now, the Obama Administration has announced that it is delaying enforcement of the employer mandate until 2015. But, the fact is, the law remains in place and continues to discourage new jobs and full-time work.

“Of course, fixing this one flaw won’t solve the countless problems caused by Obamacare. But it would help ensure that millions of American workers do not have their hours, and their paychecks, reduced.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our nation’s economy. The last thing we need is yet another obstacle to helping them grow and create much-needed jobs.”


Filed under: Health care • Susan Collins
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Tony in Maine

    Which suggests that employers consider employees like toilet paper – use and dispose of.

    I think Collins is wrong – there are a few employers who actually realize that their employees are the reason they can afford the big house on the hill. But, who am I? Just a pie in the sky Democrat and Collins is a Flag Wrapped Yankee Doodle REPUBLICAN.

    Might I suggest that all this would be so much blather if the US followed the examples of countries that provide universal single payer government administered health insurance.

    August 3, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  2. Marie MD

    This concern about small business and Americans in general would be more credible if it was coming from someone who actually works 40 hours a week. Someone who doesn't quit and go home on Thursday's or someone who is not part of the 40th repeal of Obamacare. Working 30 hours will help hundreds/thousands of Americans who can't find a 40 hour week FT job to be able to have insurance so that when/if they do get sick they not have to die which is the ultimate solution of the rethugs/. Cheaper to die (pine casket or cremation, of course) than be cured.
    Someone who, by doing absolutely nothing in the last four and a half years, will still get a nice cushy pension with one of the best medical insurance plans AFTER she is retired by the voters.
    Sort of like tracy burns of faux news saying in 2013 that fast food workers shouldn't live in poverty making $7 an hour. Of course, she also said back in 2010 that if you make $250K a year you live in poverty because how can you survive and even think of sending your kids to college with that small amount of money. See how utterly clueless and self centered these people are?

    August 3, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  3. quinLee

    ok, this makes sense and i agree. this is an example of how we move forward.

    August 3, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  4. anonoymous

    I work for a union govt office. Several of our employees are contrat drivers who have had their hours cut because of this and blame the president. I ask the question if your employeer values your total well being why would they reduce your hours just so they dont have to pay for your health care benefits? This excuse is just plain greed or people. Anybody presently employeed and your hours were reduced and your employeer never payed for your health care wake up they are screwing you twice and its not the president's fault. They have no reguard for you whatever and youre to stupid to see it.

    August 3, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    That will simply cause even more damage to the economy, as business has no way out......but to close the doors.

    August 3, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  6. Mo

    Obama has granted government workers exemption from Obamacare. Instead of going into the exchanges, they would rather keep their GOLD healthcare plan...the one they have at TAXPAYERS expense. I believe they should ALL be forced to sign up for Obamacare! If it was a good thing like they are telling us, you know they would be the first ones to have it.

    August 3, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  7. tommy g

    How can Carney say there is no data to support businesses not hiring or reducing hours due to ACA with a straight face?

    August 3, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  8. Dixie

    This will help if the administration can agree. Wonder how that will work out? Small buisnesses will still hold off on hireing because they can't afford health care benefits for workers but who cares. It doesn't matter we have exchanges. Right?

    August 3, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  9. Tony

    Businesses hire full-time employees because they are (or should be) better than part-time employees. This is true before Obamacare, and will be true after Obamacare is implemented. If a business feels that it can hire two part-time employees now to do the work of one full-time employee before Obamacare, it probably didn't need the full-time employee in the first place.

    August 3, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  10. HenryMiller

    ""Of course, fixing this one flaw won't solve the countless problems caused by Obamacare. But it would help ensure that millions of American workers do not have their hours, and their paychecks, reduced," she said. "

    No, it will simply kill off altogether enormous numbers of businesses and throw hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work. Or, alternatively, businesses will be forced to raise the prices of their goods and services, making them unaffordable for some, do a lot of damage to the household budgets of others, reduce the sales of those businesses, and may well lead to the bankruptcy of those businesses.

    Collins is a RINO and a fool, and always has been.

    August 3, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. bcrunner

    Just yesterday on Bloomberg News it was reported that the ACA will not have a negative effect on business hiring... At least Susan Collins is not one of those repeal, repeal idiots....

    August 3, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  12. ghost

    There is proof that employers are reducing the hours of the employee to avoid offerring insurance to the employees. I think an adjustment is needed. It should be all employees, not just full time employees. I am a taxi driver and I had a couple of employers in my cab and they say they are cutting back on full time employee hours to keep from offering insurance to them. How sleezey can you get. If it were me I would drop the "full time and 40 hrs" from the requirement and just make it one or more employees. Hoowever, I do not blame the ACA, I blame businesses and the GOP.

    August 3, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  13. tammyk tammy

    Ms Collin's bill is a slap in the face to all current full time workers. We know exactly how the repug job creators think. This bill would allow all business to move to a 39 hour week so they could count most workers as part time and avoid paying for healthcare at all. For decades. I have worked a 37.5 hour week which is considered as full time by my company as it is by many companies. Under her bill, I would now be considered part time. Oh the games the Repugs play, we see right through you part time job creators.

    August 3, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. tammyk tammy

    Think about it folks. If an employer is required to pay for FT benefits if you work only 30 hours per week, then wouldn't they be just as likely to increase your hours to get their moneys worth out of you. Maybe the 30 hour rule under Obamacare will reverse the trend toward part time and create more FT jobs that a worker might actually be able to survive on.

    August 3, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. don in albuquerque

    Big difference in trying to adjust or fix things, then in just trying to kill to play politics. Especially when you do not have a clue what you would replace it with. Thank you, Ms Collins. Nice to see that there are still some thinking heads in the GOTP and not just screaming fanatics.

    August 3, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. jpmichigan

    Majority of people being hired are for part-time, this healthcare law is discouraging hiring, more so then encouraging. Definite changes in the healthcare law is needed. Why would any employer pay workers full time benefits for part time work? Why are the members of Congress (House and Senate) allowed have a waiver regarding Obamacare? Why are there so many companies and organization ( Union workers) fighting so hard against Obamacare? BECAUSE IT IS WRONG, and costing taxpaying American more to cover it . Keep the good parts of the bill and get rid of the mandates.

    August 3, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. wendel

    if repos so concerned about small business then why not agree with president and lower interest to stimulate economy and hiring??? Repos like voting against health care act . That's all they seem to be able to do and now they are going on vacation again. Vote all these clowns out

    August 3, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. rs

    The GOP is not sincere about "reforming" health care. They just want to continue their ideological war on the poor and middle class. Ms. Snow- show us your plan- then we'll talk, otherwise you are little better than the other Republican idiots who are out to make our great nation a playground for the rich- where we're their disposable playthings.

    August 3, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  19. Revolution

    Great I m losing my health care and 10hrs of work a week. Haha fools

    August 3, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. tammyk tammy

    Collins acts like the reduction of work hours to avoid paying benefits is a new trend caused by Obamacare, but businesses have been doing this very thing for decades which is how we have ended up with millions with no health insurance. Employers themselves have created the very need for Obamacare which they now despise and malign. Keep it up repug job creators and you will find single payor, government run insurance is just around the next corner or election cycle.

    August 3, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. Tom

    I applaud Collins for at least offering an idea to improve the ACA. If Republicans had been more engaged when the healthcare legislation was being debated, it might have resulted in a better program. I don't think anyone believes the ACA is perfect, but voting 40 times to repeal it without offering any alternative is just stupid.

    August 3, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. Ron L

    FIRST, I am so sick and tired of people in the government (both sides) attempting to REDEFINE terms that have been in existence for several decades. FULL TIME employment is 40 hours a week!!!! Not 30, not 35, it is 40!! If the authors of the Affordable Care Act changed it to thirty, they are once again reinforcing why so many of us are sick and tired of Politicians that attempt to redefine words for their own political gain. I support the Affordable Care act and believe in the long term it will be good for the country. This definition of full time needs to be returned to it's original meaning 40 hours. And hopefully it will not have a negative impact on either employers or employees. We need to get to a place where 95% of Americans have heathcare, and 100% of us are focused on asking why services are so high!!! THAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM!!!
    This reminds me of the ROOT cause of the IRS scandal. The original law written in 1955 said an organization had to EXCLUSIVELY be helping those that are less fortunate to get tax free status, this was changed to PRIMARILY by the IRS which allowed politically active organizations that did some help in the community get tax free status back in 1959!!! No one knows why, but FEW if ANY are attempting to get that ONE word changed back even though it becomes an issue about every 10 years or so.. WHY because it helps both sides and they want that MONEY!!!

    August 3, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Tony

    HenryMiller, only 4% of businesses in America have more than 50 full-time employees, and out of the 4%, 96% already provide insurance to their employees. Therefore, only 0.16% of business in America will be affected by Obamacare's mandate that they provide insurance to their full-time employees. Most already do. If a business with more than 50 full-time employees cannot afford to cover their full-time employees, either they are not making enough money (so they won't be hiring even without Obamacare), or they do not really need full-time employees in the first place.

    The average cost to employers for health insurance benefits to employees was $2.26 per hour worked in private industry (7.8 percent of employees' total compensation on average) in March 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If businesses cannot afford to pay $2.26 per hour for their employees' health insurance, they are not making enough money so they won't be hiring part-timers either.

    August 3, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. Pander Bear

    Well let's see. Today's headline on CNN" "House members have been in Washington fewer than three days a week on average. Senators didn't have a work week of five days for the first seven months of the year."

    3 days @ 8 hours = 24 hours a week. The House members work less than 30 hours as required by ACA. Senate members didn't have a five day work week. >5 days @ 8 hours = less than 40 hours as required by Collins' bill.

    So let's reform the Health care system so that the House of Representatives is denied health care until they work more than 30 hours. If Susan Collins' wants to revise the bill to 40 hours for a "full time job", then she has her own healthcare revoked as well.

    August 3, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. Ron L

    tammyktammy, you are incorrect on the thought that employees would increase hours of those just working 30 hours "to get more out of them. They really don't see it that way, most of them have tunnel vision and the only thing they would think is I will reduce 4 employees hours by 4 hours and add another to make up the difference and not pay healthcare for any of them. We, as a society need to get out of the mind set healthcare needs to be tied to our employers. It needs to be tied to US, so when you change jobs you don't even have to "think" about your health care plan it would just move with you like your car note or anything else you pay on. Also if you are not voluntarily only working 37.5 hours instead of the FULL 40, your company is getting something out of those 2.5 hours that you don't know about.

    August 3, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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