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National Restaurant Association - NRA files comments on health care guidance

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NRA files comments on health care guidance

The National Restaurant Association and Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition last week filed comments with the Internal Revenue Service about the agency's recent guidance under the 2010 health care law on several issues that will be critical for businesses covered by the law's "employer mandate."

Under that mandate, businesses with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees will be required to offer eligible full-time employees health care coverage starting in 2014. (The NRA offers more detail on the health care law at Restaurant.org/Healthcare.)

IRS materials, supplied in late August as guidance rather than regulations, offer employers covered by the employer mandate guidance on how to calculate whether new and existing employees are considered "full time" under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and thus must be offered health care coverage by applicable employers. The guidance also covers how to determine when the clock starts running on the 90-day waiting period before new full-time employees must be offered health care coverage under PPACA. The guidance is good through 2014 and may be supplemented with additional material, the agency said.

In comments, the NRA and coalition stressed the continued need for flexibility for businesses as the IRS moves from guidance to proposed regulations. Although both the NRA and the coalition generally commended the agency for taking a flexible approach by letting employers use up to a 12-month look-back period to determine whether existing employees and new hires are full time, the business groups noted that many questions and concerns remain.

The NRA and coalition stressed that employers are still waiting for final regulations on these and other important issues, including employer reporting requirements, tax penalties for employers, the logistics of offering coverage to employees, defining whether a business's health care plan meets a "minimum value" standard, and much more.

Employers need at least 18 months to fully comply once comprehensive regulations are issued, the coalition noted, underscoring the need for transition relief and grace periods for employers from costly penalties. Employers are already planning for 2014 benefits, and are increasingly concerned about an overwhelming shortfall of regulatory guidance from the federal government for the employer mandate due to take effect in 2014.

Read the NRA and coalition comments.

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