The Affordable Care Act poses one of the most significant challenges for restaurateurs in the industry’s history. The National Restaurant Association, in its continued efforts to help its member better understand and prepare for the ACA, has developed tools and resources for the industry. Last month the NRA launched its Employee Notification Tool, an online resource that helps NRA members notify employees about the government-run health insurance “exchanges” that open Oct. 1. Recently, Phil Kafarakis, the NRA’s chief innovation and member advancement officer, talked about the tool and some of the other programs planned.
The NRA recently introduced its new Employee Notification Tool to the industry. Why is it important?
The ACA is legislating major changes in the way employers provide health insurance to their employees. With the ACA now hitting a major milestone of launching health insurance exchanges in every state on Oct. 1, employers also face a first-time requirement: to notify their employees about new options for buying plans through exchanges. This is a statutory mandate for all employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Notices must go to existing employees by Oct. 1, and then employers are required to inform their new hires about exchanges within 14 days of their employees’ start dates.
What service does the Employee Notification tool provide?
The NRA’s new Notification Tool, available at Restaurant.org/Notify, makes it easy for employers to provide the required notice to their employees. NRA members who register to use the tool can create a company -specific landing page to notify employees about exchanges. The customization aspect of the program is important to us because we want it to fit into whatever programs and services our members are already using inside of their businesses. The tool, which is an exclusive benefit in support of our members, accomplishes several things: It informs employees about exchanges, as the ACA requires. It tracks and reports on which employees received the notice, and creates records to verify that notice has been provided. Once the portal is created, it’s simple for the employee to use. For the employer, once the information is stored, it can be retrieved electronically later on to easily prove compliance with the law.
What kind of feedback has the Notification Tool received so far?
The response from our members tells us we are providing a valuable resource. More than 1,000 restaurant operators have already taken advantage of the Notification Tool, and more are signing up each day. The ACA creates an ongoing obligation for all FLSA-covered employers to notify every employee about exchanges. It doesn’t matter whether the employee is full-time, part-time, temporary or seasonal, or whether they participate in a company health plan. The ACA requires employers to provide the notice to all employees. The ACA entitles employees to receive this notice. This is a continuing obligation for our members, and we’re pleased to be able to provide this tool.
What else is the NRA is doing to help operators better understand the law?
We’ve been working hard to create the Association’s Health Care Reform Headquarters at Restaurant.org/Healthcare. It’s a one-stop shop where employers can find knowledge, guidance and tools that will help them better understand and comply with the ACA. We’ve also created a Health Care Law Primer that covers key aspects of the law for restaurant employers. In addition, the Health Care Reform Headquarters will later offer a marketplace to help restaurant employers and employees shop for ACA-compliant health plans.
What benefits does the Health Care Knowledge Center offer?
Our Health Care Knowledge Center has a strong education component that offers our members the most updated information on the law’s requirements. The site is continually updated as the government issues new rules explaining the law, because the ACA is constantly evolving. The fact is, the ACA is here and employers need to prepare for it. And that’s what we’re trying to do: help our members get ready for one of the biggest challenges they may ever face in running their businesses.