Sen. Collins pushes for change in Obamacare
August 3rd, 2013
06:00 AM ET
12 months 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. NC

    Employers will just reduce everyone to 39 hours and no one will have healthcare. Senator Collins works Tues.-Thurs., never works 30 hours a week and she has healthcare.

    August 3, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. Name Uche Agonsi

    Collins case against Obamacare seems water-tight. But where do these businesses fair with their deliberate mechanisms to outsmart the healthy designs of government. This sounds like the age long problems of taxation where corporations & the rich adopt various methods to avoid taxation. Formerly it was offshore funds & other designs to stave off tax payments, but now the have political organs & movements to block all tax payments. They walk away with such games. So is not the benefits of Obamacare thats the problem but the refusal of corporations & the rich Americans to contribute for the welfare of American economy....... Of course healthy labour force means healthy economy.

    August 3, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  3. yippeeskip

    @tommyg: how can Carney say ANYTHING with a straight face...

    August 3, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Econ301

    I agree 30 hours a week is arbitrary, But how does changing it to 40 solve the problem. Won't the story we here then be that employers are planning to keep good records to make sure employees don't work more than 39 hours a week.

    Wouldn't it also be incredibly easy for mass employers to drop their 40 hour a week full time employees back to 39 hours so they don't have any full time employees now too?

    I think no matter how you draw the line if you base it on hours worked employers can game the system.

    August 3, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. NEVER to VOTE REPUBLICAN again

    My husband had cancer and we can't get AFFORDABLE care! The GOP is heartless! I can't wait for Obamacare to start this Oct. for the state of MN.

    August 3, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  6. JC

    Let start with congress, if they do not work 40 hours a week they do not get health care coverage, they should not get more than 3 weeks vacation per year, they should not get free pension but rather open an IRA account and pay for it from their salary like all of us. I do not give pension to my house cleaning lady or my gardener and they do more for me
    than congress.

    August 3, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    This pathetic epithet by GOP idiots just crazy. It is a law, let us follow this. It kicks in October then 2014 January first.

    August 3, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  8. D.Tree

    96% of businesses with more than 50 employees already offer healthcare, that's why employer-provides insurance was made the backbone of this legislation – it's the most common way American workers get insurance.

    The bill is designed to encourage more employer-provided insurance, by offering tax incentives to businesses.

    This nonsense about reducing hours, is nothing more than the usual budget managers who have always sought ways to minimize expenses... no matter what reform goes through, there's always going to be a few employers who try to squeeze the most out of the system.

    August 3, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  9. dan rynberg

    Sen. Collins: Why do so many employees work less than 40 hrs.? Perhaps these lazy workers just don't want 40 hrs/wk.? No, this ain't true. How about the companies work more folks less hrs. for each worker because these "Job Creators" like the idea of not paying lots of fringe benefits. Oh yeah, this rings true. So, why would Susan Collins carry this dirty water? Maybe "quid pro quo", with some of these "Job Creators"? Plus, Collins looks like a "Team Player" with the GOPers...doesn't smell right. This will be remembered by Maine voters who may vote for someone other than our current Senior Senator...one can hope.

    August 3, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  10. Roberts

    Buying a health insurance plan is MY business, not the government's. If it is in my budget, I will buy it; if not, I won't. I will fight the fines and penalties tooth and nail.

    August 3, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  11. O'Neal

    There's no reason at all to do any tampering with the Affordable Care Act. It's not Obama Care, like so many misinformed, hate mongers that post here. It's called the Affordable Care Act, and the republicans don't care if you can afford your next meal. Matter of fact, they look upon you and me as burden, not humans but burden. Your contribution to society is of no consequence, you are a drain on the financial system, and you are burden.

    August 3, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  12. boungiorno

    to many cooks stirring the pot and for all of you people who love to critisize harness that energy into something positive your weak minded sarchasim is a waste of peoples time

    August 4, 2013 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  13. J.V.Hodgson

    The whole of the employment numbers of a business small or large is the turnover and profitability. to achieve that needs differing numbers of employees on her so called norm of 40 hours per week on normal rates that's ok the kicker occurs when 49 workers are each working more than 1-2 hours overtime at premium rates. then the cost of the premium makes it economic to employ the additional person that no doubt transitions thru part time to full time..
    My point you can manage the transition from 49- 50 employees and the cost in having to provide health care ( one of her faulty assumptions is that all below 50 small businesses offer no health care) against other savings or business growth ( more sales/ profit) from having the additional employee. Or you can do what Insurance companies appoint multiple self employed agent to sell the product on a commission only basis.
    Also so many solutions are commercially available other the ones I describe ( they vary by business) to plan for and overcome the cost. Much of which anyway will pass on in prices paid to small business by consumers for whatever they
    do.
    Also the reality is that even if a small business owner is not providing cover, my guess is a lot of those employees are paying for some cover themselves. QED the smart Small business owner can agree some cost sharing with those employees. to save the full cost hit to his company.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    August 4, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  14. Name Uche Agonsi

    No law is perfect. If there is any provision of Obamacare that needs looking into, it should be on the idea of segregating workers into permanent & temporary status. Both are workers, capable of encountering health problems. The other area should be the inclusion of high profit-making businesses, with employees less than 50 employees, into the provisions (of course within a defined profit leve), as some small coys can really make huge profits as to provide healthcare for their workers.

    August 4, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  15. Jean Sartre

    Collin's entire argument is as stupid as Rick McDaniel's...

    August 4, 2013 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  16. Rob

    Does anyone think she really cares. Congress has already been given an exemption from Obama so they keep their health plan and of course we pay for it. They seem to think Obamacare isn't good enough for them but it's ok for us lowly surfs, slaves and tax payers but not for the elite in Washington like Obama and Congress and their staff. If nothing else, they all pasted this piece of trash, ignored the MAJORITY of voters that told them know and now we are forced to have to pay for it and Congress, being better than us, gets out of it. They are breaking the very law they forced on us against our will

    August 4, 2013 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  17. anne

    Susan Collins WAS the senator who allowed Obamacare to become law. She IS solely responsible.

    Buyers remorse eh Susan?

    You are not a republican, but a democrat...aka a wolf in sheep clothing

    August 4, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  18. Walter Jasniewski

    This is what happens when you elect a PRESIDENT that has no experience doing anything besides being an attorney and you allow him to set his staff up with people in high ranking positions when they have no right being in. Obama has no clue what life is like for real people, he has no idea about the health care system, the military, foreign relations, intelligence, etc. He surrounds himself with people that donated $$$$$$ to his campaign, they get these high ranking positions, yet they have NO EXPERIENCE. I loved how he talked about Immigration reform before he was elected the first time, put it on the back burner, then brought it up right before the next election saying, "Oh, and I didn't forget about you, and since you don't need any ID to vote, go vote (MAYBE VOTE TWICE, OR THREE TIMES)." The guy is a fraud. ObamaCare is going to do nothing to help anyone except "Friends of Obama."

    August 4, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  19. Walter Jasniewski

    OBAMACARE doesn't address the RIDICULOUS cost of Health Care, or Insurance. Anytime the government gets into something the costs Skyrocket, so OBAMACARE is going to do nothing besides make it much worse.

    August 4, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  20. Marie MD

    @ron l, I have worked at two different companies and the 40 hour week was 37-1/2. You are wrong!
    One person working 30 hours might give somebody else employment.
    The rethugs don't care. Company CEO salaries have increased over 300% in the last six-seven years. Can you say the same about your salary? I sure can't!

    August 4, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  21. rickmark52

    Rather than using an arbitrary number of hours per week per employee as the standard, maybe we should go by the size of the payroll. Or use "full-time equivalent" ... then it wouldn't matter how many hours are given to individuals

    August 4, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. TY

    So this bill that was passed without being read, because Pelosi and her pals knew what was best for us, will provide us with healthcare that apparently is not good enough for the President himself, congress, the agency that is tasked with enforcing it (IRS), and who knows how many others.

    Many do not realize that there is a provision of Obama's healthcare law, dubbed the Cadillac Tax, penalizes companies that offer extremely generous healthcare plans to their employees. If an employer offers a plan that costs more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family, the employer will be forced to pay a 40 percent tax on the portion of the plan cost that exceeds those thresholds. So sure, you can keep your insurance if you have "good insurance" that you want to keep, IF your employer continues to offer it...... Yeah, right.

    August 4, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  23. g

    congress and the senate are part time workers ,why do the tax payers have to pay for their healthcare benefits and pensions

    August 4, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. JAK

    The Health Care Law along with just about everything else that Obama has created is an anchor on Society. Most of America is so Stupid because they voted in the Democrat-Liberal again. These next four years will destroy our nation. Gas is Crazy and the Vacationing President does nothing to help, approve refinery construction, the pipeline etc., No, he just goes on spending millions of dollars on fancy vacations. (He thinks he is entitled to Americas Money). I really had hoped that America was smarter than to re-elect Obama.... but news organizations like yours perpetuate this Godlike image of the truly clueless Commander in Chief.

    August 4, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. kafantaris2

    "The strategy that has been laid out [to shut down the government to defund Obamacare] is a good way for Republicans to lose the House," says Sen. Tom Coburn.
    Well, that’s what you get when you make a pact with the devil.

    August 4, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
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