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National Restaurant Association - Eliminate auto-enrollment requirement, NRA urges

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Eliminate auto-enrollment requirement, NRA urges

Congress should eliminate the requirement in the health care law that will force large employers to automatically enroll full-time employees in company health plans if employees do not opt out, the National Restaurant Association said today.

Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) introduced H.R. 1254 March 19 to eliminate the "auto-enroll" requirement in the 2010 health care law. The National Restaurant Association strongly supports the bill.

The auto-enrollment mandate applies to businesses with more than 200 full-time employees. The provision is not in effect yet. The Department of Labor last year acknowledged difficulties in writing rules to implement the mandate and said employers will not be required to comply until regulations are available.

The provision would require employers who offer health plans to automatically enroll full-time employees in the company’s lowest-cost plan beginning on the employee's 91st day on the job unless the employee took steps to opt-out.

"The auto-enrollment mandate could cause financial hardship and greater confusion about the law for employees, and place a significant administrative burden on employers," Angelo Amador, the NRA's vice president for labor and workforce policy, said in a letter of support for H.R. 1254.

He noted that more than four in 10 restaurant-industry employees are under age 26 and likely to be moving from job to job or eligible for health care coverage through a parent. Employees who inadvertently miss opt-out deadlines could face financial burdens when their employer is required to enroll them in coverage and begin billing them for health premiums.  Employers anticipate complicated questions from employees and concerns about the impact of situations where employees failed to pay premiums on time, the NRA noted.

The auto-enrollment provision would come on top of a health care law that will already require these same employers to offer health benefits to full-time employees and their dependents in 2014 or face possible penalties. The auto-enrollment rule "adds a layer of bureaucracy and burdens businesses without increasing employees' access to coverage," Amador said.

"Some compare automatically enrolling employees in health benefit plans to automatically enrolling them in a 401(k) plan, but this isn't a good parallel," Amador said. He noted that an employee's share of a health care premium could be significantly higher than the average 3 percent automatic 401(k) contribution -- and that employees can retrieve 401(k) contributions when they opt out of auto enrollment, while contributions to health plans cannot be retrieved.

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