The Congressional Budget Office just poured cold water on a popular Republican proposal to “fix” Obamacare.
The GOP’s bill would change the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a “full time employee” from a worker logging 30 hours each week to someone logging 40 or more hours a week.
The nonpartisan CBO found that under Obamacare, the GOP bill would increase the deficit by about $74 billion over the next decade and cause one million people to lose their work-based insurance.
Under Obamacare’s employer mandate, companies with 50 or more “full-time” employees must offer health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty if at least one employee purchases a plan through the health care marketplace with a federal subsidy.
Supporters of the GOP bill say the law’s current 30-hour-a-week threshold incentivizes companies to shift full-time workers to part-time status just below the 30-hour threshold to avoid paying for employee health insurance. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and other Republicans have dubbed these workers the “Obamacare 29ers,” a reference to the reduced weekly hours they say employees would work because of the law.
“Many of these people have either lost or risk losing their full-time status and are being held back through no fault of their own but instead by a misguided law,” Camp said in a statement last week.
Some health policy experts, however, argue that changing the full-time status to 40-hour work weeks makes it even easier for companies to circumvent the requirement that medium to large firms provide health coverage to their workers.
The CBO also found that the GOP’s plan would increase the number of uninsured by 500,000 – and push about another 500,000 onto Medicaid or Obamacare.
“By essentially eliminating any requirement for businesses to contribute to the cost of health coverage, Republicans have just embraced a proposal to put wages and benefits at risk for a million or more hard-working Americans, while substantially increasing the deficit,” House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-MI) said in a statement.
The bill is one of the GOP’s first serious attempts to “fix” Obamacare ahead of the 2014 elections. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said last week that the House plans to take up the measure in March. Meanwhile, Republicans are finalizing another Obamacare alternative.
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