The GOP’s new Obamacare offensive

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from MSNBC,

They’re not pushing for full repeal of Obamacare. They’re not even pushing for partial repeal. Instead, they’re pushing for a seemingly incremental change.

Having assumed full control of Congress this week, Republicans are trying to seem less “scary.”

One of the first items on their agenda in January is President Obama’s signature health care legislation. But Republican’s won’t be pushing for a full repeal of Obamacare. They’re not even pushing for partial repeal. Instead, they’re angling for a seemingly incremental change: to be counted as full-time, workers should need to rack up 40 hours a week, not 30 hours.

President Obama has already indicated that he would veto the measure, but business groups argue it’s a commonsense change that isn’t intended to undermine the central pillars of the Affordable Care Act. “We maintain this is not a campaign to repeal and replace the ACA. It’s a return to the traditional definition of 40 hours,” said Stephen Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association. The employer mandate predominantly affects restaurant, retail, agriculture and other low-wage industries that tend to have part-time employees working closer to the 30-hour threshold.

But the GOP’s proposed change is hardly a minor tweak to Obamacare—and not all conservatives agree it’s the best way forward.

It would effectively gut the employer mandate, reducing employer-sponsored coverage by 1 million people and costing $74 billion in lost penalties, according to the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation. But it would also make it even more likely that the Affordable Care Act will have negative consequences for ordinary Americans, according to Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“A change in the definition of full-time work to 40 hours per week would essentially eviscerate the requirement that employers offer coverage to their employees, while still providing an economic incentive for employers to reduce hours for uninsured workers,” he said.

The reason that the architects of Obamacare set the definition of full-time work at 30 hours in the first place was to minimize the disruption to the labor market. Far more employees work close to 40 hours a week than 30 hours a week, so if the threshold were raised, more employers could be tempted to reduce hours to avoid complying with the mandate.

“It would make it easier for employers to reduce hours for workers who don’t now have health insurance on the job, since 39 hours is still basically a full-time work week and there would be little disruption for employers moving many of their workers to just below the 40 hour threshold,” Levitt said.

That’s why some conservative critics of Obamacare believe that changing the threshold would be worse than doing nothing at all.

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