Hitting the Ground Running
By Rep. Kristi Noem
January 16, 2015
Over the last few years, thousands of South Dakotans have reached out to me about the Affordable Care Act – or as most people refer to it, “Obamacare.” Undoubtedly, there are a handful of people who have talked about the new access they’ve received, but the vast majority have contacted me about the problems they’ve faced – whether that’s significantly higher costs for their family, new restraints on their small business, or concerns about losing the healthcare coverage they trust, as it’s already gotten their family through some pretty serious medical situations.
By this time, most people reading this column understand that I want to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a patient-centered plan that gives you more control over your healthcare while simultaneously targeting the elements of healthcare that are driving insurance costs up, such as frivolous lawsuits and a lack of competition. I’ve voted numerous times to repeal the legislation and have put forward an alternate plan, but I remain convinced that repeal is not possible under this President. To him, this is his legacy and so he will veto any full repeal. And while we have hopes to overcome some presidential vetoes with the new Republican majority in the Senate, there is not enough support from Democrats to override a veto on the repeal of ACA.
While I remain committed to ultimately replacing the President’s healthcare law, I will do what I can today to lessen its impact on South Dakotans. With just two weeks under our belt in 2015, I’ve already helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass three reforms this year that specifically benefit veterans, volunteer firefighters, and small businesses.
The first, the Save American Workers Act, updates ACA’s definition of “full-time” – something I’ve talked to many South Dakota small businesses about in the last few years. Under ACA, full-time was defined as 30 hours per week – rather than the traditional 40 hours per week. The 30-hour definition is almost unheard of. Even France defines full-time as 35 hours per week.
As a result, some hourly workers – including many in the services industry – saw their time being cut from 40 hours per week to 29. Fewer hours means less pay. Through the Save American Workers Act, we aim to save workers from having their hours cut. This legislation passed with bipartisan support, 252-172.
We also passed the Hire More Heroes Act. Under ACA, employers with more than 50 full-time workers must help employees pay for insurance through an employer-sponsored plan or face a penalty. But many veterans receive healthcare through Tricare or the VA. The Hire More Heroes Act says that veterans don’t count toward ACA’s 50-employee threshold. I’m hopeful it will encourage folks to hire more of our heroes, while also allowing small businesses to grow without being held back by ACA’s red tape. This legislation passed the House unanimously.
Finally, we made similar exceptions for volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, as most receive healthcare through other means. I’m hopeful this legislation, which also passed the House unanimously, will help preserve precious emergency response dollars.
These three reforms are expected to be considered in the Senate soon, but they continue to face an uphill climb in the White House. Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to get some reforms enacted.