The introduction of new legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate seeks to relieve employers of health care reform requirements Republicans say threaten job creation and growth. While many in the benefits industry applaud an effort widely considered futile, the employer mandate is only one of several ACA concerns employers say they have prioritized.

A repeal of the employer mandate would allow employers “to grow their businesses without the added concern of reaching an arbitrary and punitive threshold,” says Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Late last week, Hatch and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the American Job Protection Act, S. 305, a bill to repeal the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rule.  Under the ACA, businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees are required to offer health insurance of minimum value or pay a penalty.

Employers have long supported a repeal of the ACA’s employer mandate, says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health.

“Historically, employer-sponsored health benefits have been offered on a voluntary basis. So, we feel we shouldn’t be mandated to do it or comply with requirements about how to do it to avoid potential penalties,” says Wojcik.

Having said that, he adds, “We’re not optimistic this legislation is going to go anywhere, because I don’t think the president would sign it.”

Regardless, he says, while the employer mandate is important, it’s only one of many concerns employers have about the ACA.

“No. 1 on everybody’s mind is the Cadillac Tax — either eliminating it, delaying it or reducing its impact,” he says.

See related: Top 5 unanswered questions about the Cadillac Tax

40-hour work week

Employers have also prioritized efforts to change the definition of a full-time employee under the ACA from one who works 30 hours per week to one who works 40 hours per week.

“That’s very important to employers given the nature of their workforce and the fact that they have flexible hours and lots of part-timers, etc.,” says Wojcik.

See related: Battle continues over impact of 40-hour work week legislation

The House of Representatives in January passed H.R. 30, the Save American Workers Act of 2015, which would rewrite the ACA’s definition of a full-time employee. The debate on the subject moved to the Senate floor last week during a full committee hearing of the Senate HELP committee.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the HELP committee ranking member, criticized the Republican proposal to redefine a full-time worker under the ACA and said the proposal would give companies incentive to cut workers’ hours and deny them health care coverage.

The proposal “would represent a very clear step in the wrong direction for workers who don’t want to see their hours or benefits cut, and for the many businesses around the country who want to do the right thing and help their employees stay healthy,” she said. “The bottom line is, the last thing any worker wants is fewer hours and higher health care costs.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Outlook Survey released in April 2013 found that the requirements of the health care law are now the biggest concern for small businesses. Of small business respondents, 77% say the health care law will make coverage for their employees more expensive, and 71% say the law makes it harder for them to hire more employees.

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