Yesterday the House of Representatives passed H.R. 30, a bill to chip away at the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide health coverage for employees who work at least 30 hours a week, amending it so that employers would only be required to provide health insurance coverage to those who work 40 hours per week. Were the bill to become law, Americans who work between 30 and 40 hours per week could be denied employer-provided health insurance. And employers could begin skirting their obligations to the 44 percent of Americans who work 40 hours a week simply by cutting their hours from 40 to 39.
The bill is bad news all around, and it’s especially bad news for low-wage workers, two-thirds of whom are women. Low-wage workers are already far more likely than other workers to work part-time not because they want to, but because full-time work is unavailable. In 2012, the rate of involuntary part-time work for employees in low-wage occupations (14 percent) was more than double the rate of involuntary part-time work among employees overall (6 percent). Employers routinely slash hours for workers in low-wage jobs — sometimes in response to a slowdown in consumer demand and sometimes as a form of retaliation against workers who ask for changes in their schedules. This bill simply gives those employers who already jerk workers around at the drop of a hat another reason to deny 40 hours of work a week to workers who need it.
Historically, low-wage workers have been far less likely to have health insurance coverage through their employers than other workers. By 2010, only about one-quarter of low-wage workers had health insurance through their employers, as compared to half of employees in the next quintile, and three-quarters of employees in the top quintile. Raising the definition of full-time work in the ACA from 30 to 40 hours will help ensure that the system continues to be rigged against low-wage workers.
The bill makes it that much harder for men and women in low-wage jobs to put food on the table for their families. The bill’s title — Save American Workers Act — is the ultimate misnomer. Starve American Workers Act is more like it.