The Affordable Care Act is now law, and in spite of the various technical glitches, Americans have been signing up, so that they may enjoy access to healthcare when they get sick. For some people, this may be the first time they have ever had health insurance. Now, there is a push from conservatives to change the definition of the full-time work week to get employers who do not want to offer benefits off the hook.
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Some senators are highly concerned about business owners’ ability to pay for ACA requirements for their full-time employees, according to a recent broadcast on Wyoming’s K2 radio. Wyoming’s Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, among other senators, are proposing that the definition of full-time work be 40 hours, and no less than 40. This will enable employers to employ workers 38 hours per week, but not offer them benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been quoted as saying the timing for the roll-out of the Obamacare website was “flat-out wrong.” She believes more time and testing were necessary to avoid mistakes on the website.
No one can deny that there have been technical problems with the website. Unfortunately, time was a luxury we never had.
The Affordable Care Act
Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is sometimes called, offers protections to patients that lower the net profits of for-profit insurance companies. It does not, however, put them out of business. Among other things, people cannot be dropped from coverage after they get sick, simply because they didn’t mention their teenage acne on the enrollment form. And people who need healthcare now have access to it, because it is against the law to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. These reforms were long overdue.
Perhaps the biggest reason we simply could not wait for the roll-out is the ongoing assault on the ACA by conservatives. This attempt to deny coverage to employees who work less than 40 hours per week is just the latest attack on this government’s attempts to give people in the United States of America access to healthcare.
ThinkProgress put together a comprehensive blow-by-blow of the Republican response to the ACA going back to March 23, 2010. Rather than chipping away at the edges, on this date, they were pushing to repeal the law altogether. Never mind the fact that come April 2010, some Republican senators were taking credit for the very same ACA they were trying to repeal weeks before.
The 40-Hour Work Week
Henry Ford is lauded for implementing the five-day, 40-hour work week in 1926. The Industrial Revolution had men, women, and children working 14-hour days, so Ford’s hours were cause for celebration among the working class. However, the history of the work week is more complicated and surprising.
In the 1980s, American workers toiled more hours than peasants in the 1400-1600s. During the Great Depression, President Hoover wanted to change the work week to 30 hours; this passed in the Senate but did not become law.
Americans already work more than our European counterparts. Do we really need to change the definition of “full-time” to no less than 40 hours per week, just so we can deny more people access to healthcare?
Tell Us What You Think
Should full-time be 40 hours for the purposes of employer-sponsored health care? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.