Thursday, May 1, 2014

Senator: Key health care change is win-win

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) told an audience of National Restaurant Association members that changing the Affordable Care Act’s definition of “full time” from 30 to 40 hours would benefit both restaurants and their employees.

Donnelly, lead co-sponsor of the “Forty Hours is Full Time Act,” with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), made the comments in a speech Wednesday during the NRA’s 2014 Public Affairs Conference. The legislation aims to bring the health care law more in line with workplace realities, he said. The 30-hour definition could limit opportunities and flexibility for employees and make running a business “endlessly more complicated” for employers accustomed to a 40-hour workweek, he said. Employees, Donnelly said, will benefit from a 40-hour work week through the opportunity to work more hours, earn more money and gain more experience.

“We have an opportunity to step up and make things more simple, in a bipartisan way,” Donnelly said. “It’s our job to provide certainty. If it’s going well for [businesses], it’s going well for the country.”

Donnelly’s speech helped kick off a day in which nearly 700 restaurant professionals made visits to their members of Congress to discuss health care, immigration reform, taxes and other legislative issues that affect restaurants. He encouraged restaurant operators to address the health care law’s full-time definition during their visits.

“Tell [members of Congress] that 40 hours is full-time,” Donnelly said. “Ask them what a full-time workweek was when they worked in the private sector. If they say 30 hours, it wasn’t really a full-time job in the private sector.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also spoke to conference attendees on Wednesday and thanked restaurant operators for helping to bring problems with the 30-hour full-time definition to the attention of Congress.

“We heard from everyone in your industry on how [the 30-hour full-time definition] was hurting people,” Cantor said. “I thank you for doing it, because it’s important.” In March, the House of Representatives passed the “Save American Workers Act,” which changes the health care law’s full-time definition to 40 hours.

“We took up that bill in the House and passed it, premised on the notion of an America that works for everybody,” Cantor said. “There are too many people who don’t have a job to go to, or who don’t have the skills to rise in an industry. We want people, such as you, to put capital to work to create these jobs.”

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