Congress Plans Obamacare Exemption to Boost Veteran Employment

The Senate could hold a procedural vote this week on a House bill to change the employer mandate.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: A military band attends a job fair for military veterans and spouses aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum March 28, 2012 in New York City. More than 1,500 veterans and military families are expected to attend and see over 100 employers in a nationwide effort to help get veterans back into the workforce. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)   
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
May 12, 2014, 10:03 a.m.

The Sen­ate plans to take up le­gis­la­tion this week to tweak the Af­ford­able Care Act’s much-delayed em­ploy­er man­date for vet­er­ans.

The Hire More Her­oes Act of 2014 would al­low em­ploy­ers to leave vet­er­ans out of the 50-count threshold for the em­ploy­er-man­date re­quire­ment, as long as the vet­er­ans already have health in­sur­ance. Their cov­er­age must either be through TRI­CARE — the fed­er­al vet­er­ans’ health pro­gram — or through the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment.

The em­ploy­er man­date re­quires busi­nesses with more than 50 em­ploy­ees to provide their work­ers with health in­sur­ance or pay a pen­alty, which op­pon­ents ar­gue could cause em­ploy­ers to cut hours or de­cline to hire more work­ers.

Sup­port­ers of the bill say it is in­ten­ded to en­cour­age em­ploy­ers to hire vet­er­ans by elim­in­at­ing the de­sire to avoid hit­ting the man­date cutoff. They also say the cur­rent level of vet­er­an un­em­ploy­ment is un­ac­cept­able.

The un­em­ploy­ment rate for all vet­er­ans was 6.6 per­cent in 2013, ac­cord­ing to the latest Bur­eau of Labor Stat­ist­ics es­tim­ates. The un­em­ploy­ment rate for those who served on act­ive duty after Septem­ber 2001 was 9 per­cent. The over­all U.S. un­em­ploy­ment rate in April was 6.3 per­cent.

The le­gis­la­tion was in­tro­duced by Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Rod­ney Dav­is of Illinois, and it eas­ily passed the House on a 406-1 vote in March.

The Sen­ate ver­sion is sponsored by Mis­souri Re­pub­lic­an Roy Blunt. It has 38 co­spon­sors, in­clud­ing two Demo­crats: Mark Ud­all of Col­or­ado and Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id filed a clo­ture mo­tion on the mo­tion to pro­ceed Thursday, set­ting the bill up for a pro­ced­ur­al vote this week.

The vote sched­ule will not be set un­til after the vote to end de­bate on the Shaheen-Port­man edu­ca­tion bill Monday even­ing, but the earli­est the em­ploy­er-man­date le­gis­la­tion could move would be a clo­ture vote on the mo­tion to pro­ceed Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to a Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide.

The le­gis­la­tion is the vehicle for the tax-ex­tenders bill, the aide said.

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