In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: taking a closer look at the Save American Workers Act of 2013.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an applicable large employer may be subject to a tax, called an “assessable payment,” if it does not offer its full-time employees and their dependents minimum essential coverage under an employer-sponsored health care plan. For purposes of the ACA, an “applicable large employer” means an employer who employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees on business days during the preceding calendar year; additionally, full-time employee means, with respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.
The so-called “Save American Workers Act” (“the Act”) which has 209 co-sponsors (202 Republicans and 7 Democrats) and is set for a vote in the House of Representatives shortly, seeks to “fix” the ACA by changing the definition of a full-time work week from 30 hours to 40 hours. “The new class of employees dubbed the ‘Obamacare 29ers’ continues to grow,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), warned earlier this month. His bill would rectify this problem, he said, by pushing the threshold up to 40.
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that businesses are dodging the ACA by cutting employee hours. But the fact of the matter is that the Save American Workers Act is solving a problem that may not need solving. Looking at the average weekly hours in the industries most likely to be affected, there is little evidence of a shift to part-time work.
That does not mean, however, that the Act would have no effect. On the contrary, a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) suggests that the Act was badly mislabeled.
According to the CBO and JCT report, the legislation would cause 1 million people to lose their employer-based insurance coverage. More than 500,000 of them would end up getting coverage through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Care Program or the Exchanges. The rest, however, would become uninsured.
Let’s be honest: adding or subtracting half a million people from the ranks of the uninsured is relatively unsubstantial, particularly given the uncertainties in the CBOs projection. However, let’s not forget that the employer mandate’s main purpose is to raise revenue. According to the report, moving the full-time threshold from 30 to 40 hours has a substantial effect on that revenue: the deficit, in fact, would go up by $74 billion over 10 years.
The Act would, in other words, have the opposite of its “intended” effect, for both workers and the federal government. This is about politics. Not policy.
Word Count: 250
The Five Most Interesting Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles (both political and non-political) we’ve read this week:
- “In 2009, sales jumped by 25%; in 2010, by nearly 18%; and in 2011, by roughly 14%, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. While it still hasn’t approached the massive reach of Budweiser, PBR overtook Coors in volume sales back in 2006, and Sam Adams in 2010. Americans drank over 350 million liters (92 million gallons) of PBR in 2012, almost 200% more than they did in 2003, according to data from Euromonitor.” From Quartz: How Pabst Blue Ribbon Became a Billion-Dollar Beer.
- The searing drama “12 Years a Slave” won three awards at 86th Academy Awards last Sunday night: best picture, best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and best adapted screenplay (John Ridley). And then on Tuesday, The New York Times published a correction to a 161-year-old article about Solomon Northup, whose memoir served as the basis for the film.
- “With nearly every other street named after a Russian general or a gruesome battle, its lovely seafront promenade dominated by a ‘monument to sunken ships’ and its central square named after the imperial admiral who commanded Russian forces against the French, British and Turkish troops in the 19th century, Sevastopol constantly feeds thoughts of war and its agonies.” Andrew Higgins at The New York Times provides a little history about Crimea: Steeped in Its Bloody History, Again Embracing Resistance.
- “Standardized tests have become ‘far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,’ [College Board President and CEO David] Coleman said at an event in Austin, Texas. They’re too stressful for students, too filled with mystery and ‘tricks’ to raise scores and aren’t necessarily creating more college-ready students, he said.” From CNN: Major Changes Coming to 2016 SAT Test: Here’s What, How and Why.
- “Doctors gave the baby’s mother anti-HIV drugs during labour [sic] to cut the risk of passing her HIV on, and began treating the baby four hours after she was born in suburban Los Angeles last April.” Within hours, the baby had been cleared of the virus. From The Guardian: Baby Baby Born with HIV Reported to Be Clear of Virus after Urgent Treatment. Here’s a more complete account from The New York Times: Early Treatment Is Found to Clear H.I.V. in a 2nd Baby.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week took a closer look at the conventional wisdom that increased voter turnout benefits the political left. Read the Column – Does High Voter Turnout Favor Democrats?