Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Health Care Law's Definition of Full-Time Employees Draws GOP Scrutiny

By Melissa Attias, CQ Roll Call

January 28, 2014 -- Republicans continued to voice concern Tuesday about a provision in the health care law that defines full time as working 30 hours a week, and they were bolstered by an analysis that found 2.6 million workers are vulnerable to having their hours cut under the current threshold.

The definition has drawn scrutiny, which continued at a House Ways and Means hearing, because the overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) generally requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to offer insurance or pay a penalty.

Critics say businesses typically consider 40 hours to be full time and that the 30-hour mark creates an incentive for employers to cut hours to avoid having to provide coverage or pay the penalty.

Lanhee J. Chen, research fellow at the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution, said that his organization recently updated a study by the Labor Center at the University of California at Berkeley to come up with the 2.6 million figure, which equates to 3.1 percent of the U.S. workforce. He also said the law’s provision disproportionately affects women, those who lack a college degree, young people and the poor.

But Helen Levy, research associate professor at University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, said research suggests the concern about incentives to limit workers’ hours below the 30-hour threshold has been overstated. She also said that changing the definition to 40 hours, as some lawmakers have proposed in legislation that won praise at the hearing, would make the problem worse.

According to Levy, a larger number of uninsured workers is closer to the 40-hour mark than the 30-hour mark. She said about three times as many employees would be vulnerable at the higher threshold, and that the change would boost federal spending on Medicaid and subsidies in the health insurance exchanges.

Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the committee, also said that less than 1 percent of employers are affected by the employer mandate provision in the law, which includes the 30-hour definition. That mandate was expected to take effect this year, but the Obama administration delayed enforcement of its penalties until 2015.

Still, Republicans argued that the provision is already having a real impact, citing individuals who they said have been negatively affected.
“If you don’t think this 30-hour mandate is hurting workers and cutting hours, you’re in deeper denial than Justin Bieber,” said Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

Full Committee Chairman Dave Camp said after the hearing that a group of members on his panel are working on health care issues and that the hearing was part of a review of health care policy.

“We want to make sure that we can have credible fixes to problems that we learn about in the bill and this is clearly something many members have been hearing about, I have as well, in terms of the hours per week,” the Michigan Republican said. “But also to look at other principles that might actually reduce the cost of health care, which this bill doesn’t.”

Publication Details