Levin Opening Statement at Hearing on the Affordable Care Act

Jan 28, 2014
Press Release

(Remarks as Prepared)

Today this Committee is holding a hearing on an issue that has been rehashed many times. Yet it has failed to have a hearing on an issue also in our jurisdiction that already has directly affected the lives of 1.6 million people — their total loss of unemployment insurance.

A small percentage of employers — less than one percent — will be affected by the employer responsibility provision in the ACA.  More than 1.6 million long-term unemployed are facing right now the loss of their benefits, their cars, their homes.

I met last week at home with 25 long-term unemployed workers to hear their stories.  One of them – Josie Maisano from St. Clair Shores, Michigan – is here today and will be my guest at the State of the Union tonight.

This hearing should be us listening to her story and the stories of so many others.

Instead, we are here today so that the Majority can continue its endless pursuit of undermining a law that is already helping millions and is here to stay.

Today, the majority brings us together to discuss the impact of the Affordable Care Act on jobs, employers and the economy. Here’s what they aren’t likely to tell you:

First, a very small percentage of employers – less than one percent -- will be affected by the so-called employer mandate provision within the law. Not only does it apply to businesses with 50 or more employees, making 95 percent of businesses exempt -- all but five percent of businesses with more than 50 employees already offer their employees health insurance.

Providing employee coverage is both economical and a “standard of business practice” for businesses with more than 50 employees.  In fact, this is why we used 50 employees as the cut off for an exempt “small” business. It has been that way for years – and few expect that to change as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 99 percent of employers will continue to offer coverage.  And real world experience shows that employer-sponsored insurance in Massachusetts has increased since the state’s reforms.

Two, since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law four years ago, private employers have added more than 8 million jobs.  More than 90 percent of the rise in employment nationwide has been due to workers in full-time jobs.  In fact, workers in the restaurant industry have seen their average weekly hours increase since the law was signed, contrary to the notion that there has been a widespread shift to reduced hours in that sector.

Those who have threatened to cut hours in response to the law have been making such threats more than a year before the law was in effect. With the one-year delay in employer responsibility requirements, it is impossible for an employer to blame the ACA for business decisions occurring now.

Third, the Affordable Care Act is good for individuals who have dreamed of starting their own business or taking the risk to change jobs and help grow a small business. These entrepreneurs, like the 3 million people who have now enrolled, can get private health insurance through the Federal and State-based Marketplaces.

Unfortunately for 1.6 million job-seeking Americans, the last time this full committee met for a hearing on a topic other than the Affordable Care Act was on July 18 – six months and 10 days ago.  Hope springs eternal that this Committee can restore its focus to the broad range of issues under our jurisdiction which have the power to create economic growth and opportunity for our nation.