01.22.15

Murray: GOP Proposal to Change Affordable Care Act Work Week Requirements Would Deny Workers Health Care Coverage, Cut Hours

Murray: “Their proposal would represent a very clear step in the wrong direction for workers who don’t want to see their hours or benefits cut, and for the many businesses around the country who want to do the right thing and help their employees stay healthy.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a committee hearing on Examining Job-Based Health Insurance and Defining Full-Time Work. In her opening statement, Murray criticized the Republican proposal to redefine a full-time worker under the Affordable Care Act and highlighted that the proposal would give companies incentive to cut workers’ hours and deny them health care coverage. Murray called on Republicans to work with Democrats to build on the Affordable Care Act to make the health care system work better for families and communities.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Unfortunately, just weeks into the new Congress, we’ve already seen bill after bill introduced that would roll back the progress we’ve made when it comes to providing millions more Americans with affordable, quality health care, improving coverage for those who already had it, and fighting back against the worst insurance company abuses. The legislation that the Chairman will focus on today is no different.”

“By allowing businesses to get out of offering health insurance to any employee working less than 40 hours, this bill would actually create the problem it claims to solve. As conservative experts have noted, because of how it changes work week requirements, this bill would actually give companies incentive to cut workers’ hours and deny them health care.”

“In other words, this Republican legislation puts big corporations and their profits ahead of working families and their health care. And if it ever becomes law, workers across the country will have to worry about their health care being cut off, their hours being rolled back, and their jobs being eliminated for part-timers. We should be rewarding hard work--not punishing it.”

“Their proposal would represent a very clear step in the wrong direction for workers who don’t want to see their hours or benefits cut, and for the many businesses around the country who want to do the right thing and help their employees stay healthy. So I hope that, during today’s discussion, my Republican colleagues will seriously consider the harm their 40 hour proposal could do. Because the bottom line is, the last thing any worker wants is fewer hours and higher health care costs.”

“…Americans have been very clear that they aren’t interested in partisan political fights about dismantling this law. They want to see Congress working together to build on the Affordable Care Act to make our health care system work better. They want patients and working families to be put first—not the insurance companies, not big corporations trying to cut costs at workers’ expense, but patients and working families. That’s what I’m going to be focused on.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander. And thank you to everyone here for joining us, especially our witnesses.

“In particular, I’m proud to have a Washington state business owner here today—Joe Fugere of Seattle’s Tutta Bella Pizza. Joe, thanks so much for being here!

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to hear from you and all of our witnesses about how we can do more to strengthen our health care system for workers and families.

“I believe strongly that the work didn’t end when we passed the Affordable Care Act—far from it. There is more we need to do to build on the law and make our health care system work better.

“And I’m ready to work with anyone, on either side of the aisle, who has good ideas about how to make health care coverage more accessible and more affordable.

“Unfortunately, just weeks into the new Congress, we’ve already seen bill after bill introduced that would roll back the progress we’ve made when it comes to providing millions more Americans with affordable, quality health care, improving coverage for those who already had it, and fighting back against the worst insurance company abuses.

“The legislation that the Chairman will focus on today is no different.

“By allowing businesses to get out of offering health insurance to any employee working less than 40 hours, this bill would actually create the problem it claims to solve.

“As conservative experts have noted, because of how it changes work week requirements, this bill would actually give companies incentive to cut workers’ hours and deny them health care.

“As a result, the Congressional Budget Office projects this bill could eliminate job-based health insurance for up to a million Americans—500,000 of whom could lose their insurance altogether.

“Think about how this could impact workers. What about a nurse who works three 12 hour shifts?  Or the extra hours that teachers put in after class?

“They shouldn’t have to worry about their health care coverage being threatened.  And this bill isn’t only bad for workers—it would also shift the costs of providing coverage from businesses to taxpayers, driving up the deficit by $53.2 billion over the next decade.  

“In other words, this Republican legislation puts big corporations and their profits ahead of working families and their health care. And if it ever becomes law, workers across the country will have to worry about their health care being cut off, their hours being rolled back, and their jobs being eliminated for part-timers.

“We should be rewarding hard work--not punishing it.

“It’s also important to note that, in addition to denying workers health care coverage and driving up the deficit, the legislation my Republican colleagues are proposing would put businesses like Joe’s—businesses that want to help their workers stay healthy and economically secure—at a serious disadvantage.

“As he’ll discuss, Joe has offered health care coverage to his hourly employees, including many working below the current 30 hour threshold, since 2008. And as Tutta Bella has gone from one location to five in and around Seattle—Joe has seen firsthand that businesses succeed when their workers succeed.

“The Affordable Care Act offered businesses like Joe’s a more level playing field. But by letting businesses game the system and dump the cost of their workers’ health care onto the taxpayer, my Republican colleagues’ proposal would undo much of that progress.

“Their proposal would represent a very clear step in the wrong direction for workers who don’t want to see their hours or benefits cut, and for the many businesses around the country who want to do the right thing and help their employees stay healthy.

“So I hope that, during today’s discussion, my Republican colleagues will seriously consider the harm their 40 hour proposal could do. Because the bottom line is, the last thing any worker wants is fewer hours and higher health care costs.

“In fact, 66 percent of respondents to last week’s Fox News poll said they thought people who work thirty hours a week should receive guaranteed health insurance from their employer. And Americans have been very clear that they aren’t interested in partisan political fights about dismantling this law.

“They want to see Congress working together to build on the Affordable Care Act to make our health care system work better. 

“They want patients and working families to be put first—not the insurance companies, not big corporations trying to cut costs at workers’ expense, but patients and working families.

“That’s what I’m going to be focused on. 

“And I hope my Republican colleagues will reconsider the approach we’ve seen so far and work with Democrats to move our health care system forward, not backward.

“Because I’m confident that if they do, there is a lot we could get done together.

“Thank you.”

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