Lawmaker: Government itself is confused over ObamaCare's 30-hour workweek

A House Republican lawmaker said Wednesday that ObamaCare is forcing the federal government to send mixed messages about something as simple as how to define "full-time employee."

Speaking on the House floor today, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) noted that ObamaCare requires companies to treat anyone working 30 hours a week or more as a full-time worker for purposes under the health law. But he said other federal departments use 40 hours, an inconsistency that is also leading to confusion among companies.

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"Just last week… news reports showed that on different forms of the federal agencies, and in different offices, full-time work was being described as 40 hours by some agencies, 30 hours by other departments, and 35 hours by still others," Fitzpatrick said.

"The redefinition of full-time to 30 hours under the healthcare law is not only confusing to hardworking Americans, it's confusing to the very government who changed the definition in the first place."

Republicans on Thursday are expected to pass legislation that would eliminate ObamaCare's 30-hour workweek, and only require companies to offer workers health plans when they work 40 or more hours per week. Republicans say that change would eliminate the incentive for companies to cut the hours of their employees.

Fitzpatrick said passing that bill, H.R. 2575, would also restore the definition of full-time work to one that most people understand.

"Everyone outside Washington knows that full-time means 40 hours," he said. "Only federal bureaucrats would try to redefine a commonly understood fact that is critical to millions of workers and employees nationwide."

A spokesman said Fitzpatrick's comments were prompted by last week's reports about a Treasury Department rule dealing with how to implement ObamaCare's 30-hour workweek language. Treasury's rule says that to comply, companies must offer health coverage for 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015, and 95 percent in 2016.

Treasury said the phased in requirement could help companies who now offer health plans to people working 35 hours a week or more, "but not yet to that fraction of their employes who work 30 to 34 hours."

Most Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and many argued during today's debate that the legislation would make it harder for people to gain coverage through their employer.

"In other words, if you work 39 hours a week, you won't have to be covered, you won't have to have healthcare insurance," said House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Some debate on the bill took place today, but the rest will happen Thursday just before the final vote.