House bill would exempt veterans from employer mandate

Republicans on Capitol Hill plan to chip away at the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate by redefining the full-time work week.

Earlier this week, the House unanimously approved a less controversial way for employers to sidestep the mandate: Hire veterans.

Under the ACA employer mandate that went into effect Jan. 1, firms with 100 or more employees must provide coverage to at least 70 percent of workers. Firms with 50 or more employees must offer insurance starting next year.

By a 412-0 vote on Tuesday, the House passed a measure that would let employers exempt from that threshold veterans who receive insurance through the Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs, The Hill reported.

Supporters say the bill will encourage small businesses to hire veterans, according to the Associated Press. Both political parties back that goal--as does the White House, which said in a written statement to the AP that it endorses "commonsense improvements" to the law.

On the other hand, critics point out that unemployment rates among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are already dropping--from 9.9 percent in November 2013 to 5.7 percent last November--and that only a small number of firms are close enough to the 50-employee threshold to be realistically motivated to hire veterans to sidestep the mandate.

A similar bill passed the House last year by a 406-1 vote but went nowhere in a Democratic-controlled Senate. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has introduced similar legislation in this year's Republican-controlled Senate, according to the AP.  

For more:
- read the article in The Hill
- here's the Associated Press story

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