July 30,2013

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In Speech, Hatch Continues Push to Permanently Delay ObamaCare

Utah Senator Says, “Given what we know about the problems associated with ObamaCare, and, quite frankly, given what we don’t know, the sensible approach is to delay it permanently and to work together on reforms that will actually lower health care costs.”

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) outlined the adverse impact of ObamaCare on job creation in America and said the President’s signature domestic policy achievement should be permanently delayed for all Americans.

“Given what we know about the problems associated with Obamacare, and, quite frankly, given what we don’t know, the sensible approach is to delay it permanently and to work together on reforms that will actually lower health care costs,” said Hatch.  “I believe we can fix these problems for everyone – for employers and for individuals alike – but only if the law is permanently delayed to give us a chance to do so.  That’s what makes sense.  And, that’s what fairness dictates.”  

Below is the text of Hatch’s full speech delivered on the Senate floor today:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about an epidemic in the American workforce, which has wreaked havoc on our labor markets and caused undue hardship for millions of our nation’s workers.

I’m talking, of course, about the eradication of the 40-hour work week wrought by the so-called Affordable Care Act.  As a result of this poorly-named law, businesses around the country are instituting hiring freezes, downsizing their workforces, or reducing worker hours.  

As you know, the President’s health law requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health coverage of a minimum value or pay a penalty.  One of the unintended – but not unforeseen – consequences of the law is that a number of employers are opting to unilaterally limit the number of full-time employees in order to escape this burdensome mandate.  

The Affordable Care Act defines “full-time” employees as those working at least 30 hours a week.  As a result of this odd definition, not every employer seeking to avoid paying penalties is laying off workers.  Instead, an increasing number of businesses have opted to simply cap workers’ hours.  

This is happening everywhere, Mr. President.  

For example, a recent Reuters survey of 52 Wal-Mart stores found that half of the stores were only hiring temporary workers – something the stores typically only do during the holiday shopping season.  According to a recent article in the Washington Times Wal-Mart has, overall, increased the share of its temporary staff from between one and two percent last year to 10 percent this year.  

Keep in mind, Wal-Mart is our nation’s largest employer.  And, though the company has denied that this change in policy is a result of Obamacare, it’s hard to believe that this is all just a coincidence.  

Small businesses are also being impacted.

For instance, there is the example cited recently in the Wall Street Journal where, Rod Carstensen, an owner of several Del Taco restaurants in the Denver area, was forced to shift the majority of his workforce from full- to part-time as a result of Obamacare.  

Mr. Carstensen previously had 180 full-time employees and only 40 part-time workers.  But, providing benefits to these workers would have imposed as much as $400,000 a year in additional costs.  As a result, he is now in the process of switching to 80 full-time and 320 part time workers, none which will work more than 28 hours per week.  

Like I said, this is happening everywhere.

According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 71 percent of small businesses say that the President’s health law makes it harder to hire new employees.  And, among small businesses that will be impacted by Obamacare’s employer mandate, 50 percent say that they will either have to cut the hours of workers currently employed full-time or replace their full-time employees with part-timers in order to avoid the mandate.  

But, it’s not just happening in the private sector.  

Public schools, states, and municipalities are also limiting employees to part-time work in order avoid paying costly benefits.

For example, the second largest school district in my home state of Utah recently implemented a policy limiting part-timers to 29 hours a week.  According to the Washington Post, this impacted roughly 1,200 employees, mostly substitute teachers.

That’s 1,200 workers in a single school district that will see their hours – and their wages – capped a result of Obamacare.  

Likewise, the state of Virginia recently enacted a policy reducing the hours for as many as 10,000 part-time employees that, until recently, worked more than 30 hours a week.  

Offering coverage to these workers would have cost the state as much $110 million a year.  Understandably, rather than paying those crippling costs, Virginia was forced to reduce workers’ hours and, therefore, their pay, thanks to the demands of Obamacare.  

As I stated, this is reaching epidemic levels.

Nationwide, employers have added far more part-time employees in 2013, averaging 93,000 a month, than full-time workers, which have averaged 22,000. Last year, the reverse was true.

It isn’t just businesses that are noticing this epidemic.  Labor unions – some of the biggest supporters of the law when it was originally drafted – have also weighed in on the matter.

As has been widely reported, earlier this month, the leaders of three prominent labor unions sent a letter to the Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate expressing their concerns about some of the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act.

One of their major concerns was that, in their own words, “the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ hours below 30 hours a week.  Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.”

According to these union leaders, Obamacare threatens to “destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

I couldn’t agree more.  

President Obama is apparently starting to feel some of this pressure.

Indeed, despite his recent efforts to paint a rosy picture of the impact of the health care law, I think President Obama knows full well that the Affordable Care Act is not living up to its name.  
Why else would he decide to delay the implementation of the employer mandate as he did earlier this month?

Obviously, there are political considerations.  

The recently announced one-year delay on the employer mandate conveniently puts the implementation of the mandate past the 2014 midterm elections.  So, from that perspective, it makes perfect sense.  

Setting aside the politics, this delay also makes some sense in terms of policy.  

The epidemic of employers reducing workers’ hours is taking a huge a toll on the American workforce. Indeed, the policies established under the health law are killing jobs, reducing wages, and stagnating growth.

That being the case, the bigger question is: Why is the President only delaying the employer mandate for a single year?  Does he really believe these problems will simply go away if businesses have one additional year to prepare?

Regardless of when this mandate goes into effect, it’s going to send shockwaves through the business community.  It’s going to eliminate jobs.  And, it’s going to weaken our recovery.    

That’s why, despite the announcement of the one-year delay, employers throughout the country are refusing to reverse course when it comes to downsizing their workforces and limiting employees’ hours.  Most news reports surrounding this issue are showing that this is precisely the case.  

That’s likely the case for the state of Virginia.

It’s definitely the case for Utah’s Granite School District.  

If the President is serious about getting our economy back on track, he should work with Congress to ensure this mandate never goes into effect.

While we’re at it, we should also permanently delay the individual mandate.  

For the life of me, I can’t see why President Obama would extend his limited lifeline to the business community and, at the same time, leave individuals and families out in the cold.
If businesses are currently facing enough difficulties to justify delaying the employer mandate, shouldn’t we assume that individuals are going to face similar difficulties complying with the individual mandate?

Isn’t it only fair that we extend the same benefits to individuals and families that are being offered to businesses and employers?  

Not according to the Obama Administration.  

As it stands today, American businesses will get a one-year reprieve from the job-killing employer mandate.  But, the American people are still squarely in the sights of Obamacare as the individual mandate remains in place.  

This is the height of unfairness, Mr. President, and it needs to be rectified.  

The House of Representatives, for its part, has acted responsibly.  

Two weeks ago, the House passed two pieces of legislation relating to Obamacare.  The first bill would simply codify President Obama’s one-year delay of the employer mandate.  The second would provide similar relief to individuals and families struggling to comply with the individual mandate.  

Not surprisingly, President Obama has threatened to veto both bills, even the one that would simply put his own administration’s policy into statute.  

Still, that shouldn’t stop us here in the Senate.  

Mr. President, if we’re serious about helping the business community as well as individuals and families, we should work to permanently delay this catastrophic law. If President Obama wants to officially deny the American people the same type of relief he’s given to the business community by not working with Congress, then so be it.

The Senate needs to act responsibly, even if the President is refusing to do the same.  
Make no mistake, Mr. President, I don’t think that a one-year delay on the employer and individual mandates is enough.  

I am the author of two Senate bills that would repeal both of these egregious provisions of Obamacare.  And, in light of the President’s recent recognition that the employer mandate should be delayed, I have publicly called for a permanent delay of the implementation of the entire law.

Given what we know about the problems associated with Obamacare, and, quite frankly, given what we don’t know, the sensible approach is to delay it permanently and to work together on reforms that will actually lower health care costs.  

I believe we can fix these problems for everyone – for employers and for individuals alike – but only if the law is permanently delayed to give us a chance to do so.
That’s what makes sense.  And, that’s what fairness dictates.   If we’re serious about avoiding what even some of my Democratic friends have called a “train wreck,” that’s the least we can do.