Two U.S. senators are calling on President Barack Obama to support legislation that would change the health care reform law’s definition of a full-time employee, shielding more employers from a stiff financial penalty imposed by the law.Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers are required effective in 2014 to offer qualified coverage to full-time employees — defined as those working an average of 30 hours per week — or be liable for a $2,000 penalty per employee.
The legislation, S. 1188, introduced by Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Susan Collins, D-Maine, would change the definition of full-time employees to those working an average of 40 hours per week.The health care reform law’s 30-hour-per-week definition of a full-time employee “is inconsistent with the traditional description of a full-time 40-hour work week and … has caused significant confusion among employers who are struggling to understand and comply with the new requirements,” Sens. Donnelly and Collins wrote in a letter sent last week to President Obama.Some employers, though, who had not been providing health care coverage to employees working less than 40 hours per week have decided to do so.For example, effective Oct. 1, Cumberland Gulf Group employees working as few as 32 hours per week will be eligible for group coverage, down from current 40-hours a week requirement. Employees currently working 30 or 31 hours per week will be given the option of working 32 hours to become eligible for health insurance coverage. Employees who work less than 30 hours per week will be assisted by the company in finding coverage through public insurance exchanges.
By Jerry Geisel