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Hoosier-led bills to tackle health care law mandates

Donnelly’s to redefine full time; other on education exemptions


– Two federal lawmakers from Indiana say they will introduce bills today to protect employers against an insurance decree of the federal health care law.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., will file legislation with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to prevent employers from having to provide health insurance to employees who work fewer than 40 hours a week.

Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th, will file a bill to exempt school districts, colleges and universities from insurance mandates and penalties of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

At issue is a proposed rule requiring large employers to provide health insurance to full-time workers starting next year. The Affordable Care Act defines a larger employer as having at least 50 full-time employees and a full-time employee as one who works at least 30 hours a week.

“Most Hoosiers I know think 40 hours is full time,” Donnelly said Tuesday in a statement. “We need to change the definition of a ‘full-time employee’ in the Affordable Care Act to bring it in line with what most Americans have traditionally recognized as full time.”

The bill – its title is Forty Hours is Full Time Act of 2013 – would have the health care law define a full-time job as 40 hours a week and a full-time equivalent employee as someone working 174 hours a month (based on a 52-week year).

Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly, noted in an email that the federal government already considers full-time employment as 40 hours a week for overtime pay eligibility and full-time equivalent staffing.

Some employers are cutting the hours of part-time workers in anticipation of the regulation, Donnelly said, which “leaves too many Indiana families struggling to make ends meet.”

On June 3, Fort Wayne Community Schools revised the schedules of 610 part-time teaching aides and cafeteria workers from 30 hours a week to 25.

Collins said in a statement that the Affordable Care Act “creates a perverse incentive for businesses to cut their employees’ hours.” If the regulation on work hours takes effect, she said, “millions of American workers could find their hours, and their earnings, reduced.”

Messer, who is from Shelbyville, said the insurance mandate would cost Shelbyville Central Schools nearly $800,000 in the next school year and Southern Hancock County Schools at least $340,000. Shelbyville Central reportedly has cut the hours of 100 teaching aides.

“It is unconscionable that the federal government is taxing schools to help pay for the president’s health care law,” Messer said last week in a statement on his intention to file his bill to exempt educational institutions from the Affordable Care Act.

Donnelly and Collins also said they will send a letter to President Barack Obama today urging “ample transition flexibility” for employer compliance with the health care law after Jan. 1 and that the transition should be “free from the threat of penalty.”