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Senate support grows for bill redefining ACA full-time work week to 40 hours

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Following approval last week by the House of Representatives, legislation that would ease the health care reform law's definition of a full-time employee by changing it to those working an average of 40 hours a week is quickly picking up support in the Senate.

Thirty-two senators, including two Democrats, Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have signed on to the Senate bill, S. 30, introduced last week by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers with at least 100 employees are required, effective in 2015, to offer qualified coverage to full-time employees — defined as those working an average of 30 hours per week — or be liable for an annual $2,000 penalty per employee. The same requirement applies, effective in 2016, to employers with between 50 and 99 employees.

That 30-hour of work a week definition of a full-time employee is counterproductive, Sen. Collins said in a statement last week.

“The law creates a perverse incentive for businesses to cut their employees' hours so they are no longer considered full time. Our concerns are not hypothetical, more than 450 employers have already cut work hours or staffing levels in response to the law,” Sen. Collins said.

The Obama administration views the change in law differently. The White House, contending that the measure would lead employers to reduce employees' hours to avoid the mandate, said if the legislation receives congressional approval, President Obama would veto the bill.