What is in this article?:
- How latest change in health care bill impacts restaurants
- What to expect
The National Restaurant Association discusses the final rules for the employer mandate.
Michelle Neblett, the National Restaurant Association’s director for labor and workforce policy
The Obama administration for the second time in a year is giving some employers more time before they must offer health insurance to most of their full-time workers.
On Monday the Treasury Department announced new rules that give employers with 50 to 99 full-time workers until 2016 — two years more than originally outlined under the 2010 Affordable Care Act — before they risk a federal penalty for not complying. The White House had already postponed employer requirements from this year until 2015.
“This is the final rule on the employer mandate,” said Michelle Neblett, the National Restaurant Association’s director for labor and workforce policy. “The biggest takeaway is that all employers now have the final rules. They are not going to change. It matters to those even below 50 full-time equivalents, because they need to determine whether they are above or below 50.”
The Treasury Department also modified rules on companies with 100 or more full-time workers. The agency said those companies could avoid fines by offering insurance to 70 percent of full-time workers in 2015, reducing the coverage floor from 95 percent as earlier proposed.
The ACA mandates that anyone who works 30 hours or more is a full-time employee, and it compels many companies to offer affordable insurance to those workers and their dependents. Affordable premiums are defined as no more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s income, and employers must pay for the equivalent of 60 percent of the actuarial value of a worker’s coverage. Businesses that fail to do so will eventually face penalties of up to $2,000 for each employee not offered coverage.
The Treasury Department also made permanent the “look-back measurement method,” which gives covered employers the option of using a look-back period to measure the full- or part-time status of variable-hour and seasonal employees. The NRA said this method can give employers more stability and predictability in knowing which employees are eligible for health care coverage under the law.
The Treasury Department also clarified that seasonal employees in positions working six months or less in a year generally aren’t considered full-time employees.
The National Restaurant Association had pressed regulators to change the mandates for employers. After the Monday announcement, Dawn Sweeney, the NRA’s president and chief executive, issued a statement to thank the Treasury Department for providing flexibility.
“The permanent treatment of the ‘look-back measurement method’ and affordability safe harbors for employers are especially helpful,” Sweeney said in her statement.
The NRA’s Neblett spoke Tuesday with Nation’s Restaurant News about the impact of the new 227-page regulations.
How do these final rules impact the restaurant industry?
The NRA had some key wins that are contained in this final rule, which include the look-back measurement method for smoothing out hours over a longer period of time to determine full-time status for variable-hour workers, and the affordability safe harbors for employers so that we have predictability in determining whether the plans we offer full-time employees and their dependents are affordable to them.
The big takeaway is that these are rules that employers in the industry should be using now to truly comply and get ready for compliance, whether or not it’s Jan. 1, 2015, or Jan. 1, 2016, for different categories.