OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House rejects O-Care's 30-hour workweek

The House voted Thursday to eliminate a piece of ObamaCare that Republicans say is forcing millions of people to accept reduced hours and smaller paychecks.

Members passed the Save American Workers Act in a 248-179 vote, after a debate that stretched out over two days. Eighteen Democrats voted with Republicans, a bit more than the seven Democratic co-sponsors of the legislation, H.R. 2575.

The bill would eliminate language in ObamaCare that defines a full-time employee as anyone working 30 or more hours a week, and insert a 40-hour requirement. Republicans say that language creates an incentive for companies to reduce people's hours to 29 or fewer, because that move would reduce the number of full-time employees on staff.

Once companies have 50 or more full-time workers, they are required under the law to provide health insurance to those workers. Republicans have said for the last several weeks that the bill is leading to reduced hours and paychecks at a time when the economy is struggling to produce solid job growth.

"ObamaCare places an unprecedented government regulation on workers, changing the definition of 'full-time work' from 40 hours per week to 30 hours," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) during Wednesday's debate. "As a direct result, Americans across the country are having their hours cut at work, and they are seeing smaller paychecks."

The Hill's Floor Action blog has more on the debate.

Carney says Gibbs is wrong on mandate: The White House said Thursday that former press secretary Robert Gibbs was wrong to predict that the administration would not implement the employer mandate in ObamaCare. Asked if he agreed with his predecessor's prediction, White House press secretary Jay Carney said flatly that he did not, and that the administration would not again delay the penalty on businesses who do not offer their employees healthcare.

"As the final rules put out in February made clear, this will be phased in next year,” Carney said. "Having spent time at the pundits table ... you can make predictions all the time that turn out to be true,” Carney said.

During a speech in Colorado, Gibbs noted that the employer mandate had been twice delayed and predicted it would never be implemented. Read more at The Hill.

Easier to defend?: The new budget from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanCalifornia House Republicans facing tougher headwinds Breitbart escalates war on Paul Ryan GOP: Obama ‘in denial’ about healthcare law failures MORE (R-Wis.), out this week, contains a subtle change on Medicare that might make the budget easier for centrists to defend in the midterm elections.

As in the past, the Ryan plan gives future seniors the option of traditional fee-for-service Medicare or buying private insurance using subsidies from the federal government. Private competition, in theory, is supposed to drive down costs and lower federal spending. In the past three budgets, Ryan has structured the program so cost cutting would be guaranteed by a spending cap.
“As a backup, the per-capita cost once the program has begun could not exceed nominal GDP [gross domestic product] growth plus 0.5 percent,” his 2014 budget released last year noted. That backstop is missing this year, the committee confirmed.

Talking Points Memo pointed out the change Thursday. Instead, the budget references a 2013 Congressional Budget Office paper that contains an option that cuts both federal spending and premiums for seniors. The Hill's On the Money blog has the story.

Final O-Care deadline April 15: The final deadline for enrolling in the ObamaCare exchanges is April 15, according to the Obama administration. People who have started but were unable to complete applications for private health coverage under ObamaCare will have nearly two weeks to complete their work and avoid a tax penalty. Federal health officials announced last month that people with applications in progress on the original deadline, March 31, would be provided more time.

The April 15 deadline was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Healthwatch has the details.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court Vote House Republicans out MORE says 'no question' on mentally ill, guns: Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court Vote House Republicans out MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday said there’s “no question” that mentally ill people should be prevented from buying guns, a day after a soldier with a history of mental illness killed three people at Fort Hood in Texas. “There’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons,” Boehner said at a Capitol event.

Earlier Thursday, Army Secretary John McHugh said at a Senate hearing that Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, had been treated for depression before he opened fire Wednesday at the military base, killing three and wounding 16 before taking his own life.

Boehner and House Republicans have resisted the push by Democrats and President Obama to enact stricter gun laws in the wake of prominent mass shootings, including a 2009 massacre at Fort Hood. Read more at The Hill.

O-Care more popular than Obama: ObamaCare is currently more popular than the president for whom it's named, a new bipartisan poll suggests.

Forty-seven percent now support the law and 51 percent oppose it, according to a survey NPR released Thursday. President Obama’s approval rating stands at 46 percent and just over half disapprove, the poll found.

The survey was conducted for NPR by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic. Healthwatch has more.

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