Despite the fierce fights waged in Congress over the Affordable Care Act, a bill to loosen the employer mandate sailed through the U.S. House last week.
The vote was unanimous for what’s called the “Hire More Heroes Act.” The aim is to encourage small businesses to employ veterans. The bill says veterans wouldn’t count toward the 50-employee threshold that determines whether a business is required to offer health insurance. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of the co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill.
“When they get out of the military they’re looking for employment,” Murkowski said. “We want there to be no barriers.”
The bill would apply to employers who hire anyone with heath care covered by the VA or Tricare, the military insurance program, so it appears to include active duty family members, too. In Alaska, one in 10 residents is a veteran, according to the VA. Murkowski says the bill wouldn’t diminish the health care law.
“If your federal government is caring for your health care needs in one area, do we need to do a double dip, if you will, by requiring the employer to also provide for that level of care?” she said. “So I don’t think it undercuts the Affordable Care Act in any way.”
This year, for the first time, businesses with 100 or more full-time employees are required to offer health insurance or pay a penalty. The threshold drops to 50 employees next year.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the “Hire More Heroes” bill would cost the government some $86 million a year in lost penalty revenues.