WASHINGTON — One of the House Republican leadership’s first bills of the new Congress will add some $53 billion to the deficit and cost hundreds of thousands of Americans health insurance, according to a new report by Congress’ non-partisan budget office.


The bill, the Save American Workers Act, aims to redefine the number of hours that people work each week before their employers fall under the Affordable Care Act, raising the threshold from 30 hours to 40. Under current law, larger firms that don’t provide health insurance for people who work more than 30 hours will be fined. The bill would raise the fine threshold to 40 hours.

Republicans argue that by requiring companies to provide health benefits to anyone who works more than 30 hours, the Affordable Care Act creates an incentive for employers to cut hours to less than 30. Analysts say there is no evidence of that alleged trend, however, and a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that involuntary part-time work has actually fallen since the peak of the recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The Congressional Budget Office “score” of the bill released Wednesday suggested the shift proposed by the bill could actually worsen the healthcare situation, even as it raises costs to taxpayers.

According to the analysis, about 1 million workers would lose their employer-based health care coverage because businesses would have even more incentive to cut hours than they do now. That’s because vastly more Americans work 40 or more hours a week than those who work just over 30.

“Because many more workers work 40 hours per week (or slightly more) than work 30 hours per week (or slightly more), [the bill] could lead employers to make changes that would affect many more workers than will be affected under current law,” CBO says.

Since the employers would pay less in fines under the new bill, it would cost about $31.8 billion worth of revenue over 10 years, the CBO says.

And with some million workers losing employer health insurance, they and their families would have to turn to Medicaid, the subsidized health care exchanges, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That would end up costing taxpayers about $21.4 billion over the next decade.