As expected, the 114th Congress began its term by attacking provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 (H.R. 22), a bill that would exempt employees covered under TRICARE or other health insurance provided by the Veterans Administration from being counted toward the Affordable Care Act's 50-employee employer mandate threshold. Under the healthcare law’s employer responsibility requirements, an employer with at least 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) will be required to provide health insurance that meets certain ACA standards to their full-time employees starting in 2015, or pay a penalty. For employers with 50 to 100 full-time employees, this pay-or-play employer mandate becomes effective in 2016. Employees falling under the categories specified in the Hire More Heroes Act would not count toward these thresholds. Given the new composition of the Senate, it is possible this measure will clear that chamber as well.
Later this week, the House is also expected to pass the Save American Workers Act, which would amend the ACA's definition of full-time employment. The ACA considers a worker “full time” if he or she works 30 hours or more per week, instead of the customary 40 per week. Members of both the business and labor communities have criticized the 30-hour benchmark, claiming it will lead many employers to reduce part-time hours to below 30 and/or prevent part-time employees from taking additional shifts to keep employees from becoming “full time” under the ACA. To this end, the Save American Workers Act would clarify that a worker is "full time" if he or she is "employed on average at least 40 hours of service a week." The House approved this measure with bipartisan support during the 113th Congress, but the Senate did not consider it at that time.