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National Restaurant Association - Firehouse Subs CEO: Health care law still puzzling

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Firehouse Subs CEO: Health care law still puzzling

With the opening of the 2010 health care law’s health insurance exchanges only weeks away, restaurant operators are still struggling to understand and implement some of the law’s elements, Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox wrote in an op-ed published Sept. 12 in Forbes.

Oct. 1 has been circled on the calendars of many business owners for some time now. It’s the date by which employers must provide notification to employees about the government-run health insurance exchanges, which allow individuals to compare and purchase health coverage. Individuals and many small businesses can begin on Oct. 1 to enroll in plans for 2014 purchased through the exchanges. The health care law requires most individuals to obtain health insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014 or face an annual tax penalty.

Firehouse Subs, a Florida-based company with more than 660 locations in 36 states, will offer health coverage to its employees, Fox said, but is struggling with the Affordable Care Act’s many uncertainties. Two of the areas generating uncertainty among business owners, Fox wrote, include

  • Cost of coverage:  Some businesses are having a hard time obtaining definitive quotes for policies that meet the health care law’s minimum requirements. This makes it difficult for employers to provide their employees with information about what coverage will be offered for 2014, Fox wrote.
  • The 30-hour work week: “The most pressing problem” the health care law ultimately presents to employers is its definition of “full-time” as 30 hours per week, Fox wrote. Employers who employ an average of 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees in 2014 will be required to offer health plans to full-time employees and their dependents starting in 2015 or face penalties. Fox said the law will lead to more rigid scheduling  “Put plainly, [the health care law] undermines the flexibility of scheduling that has helped ensure a quality dining experience for customers, not to mention provided employees the convenience of flexible schedules and the ability to earn more income as their time permits,” Fox wrote. “As it stands, the net effect of these requirements will be a limitation of the earning potential of the 13.1 million Americans who work in the restaurant industry.”

Fox wrote that the health care law is workable but changes are necessary to make the law “better reflect the realities and sensibilities of both employers and employees.”

Get the National Restaurant Association’s Health Care Law Primer, the industry’s most comprehensive source for information on the 2010 health care law.

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