Decoding the ACA

Extension of health care mandate gives employers wiggle room

2013-08-03T18:00:00Z 2013-08-05T15:20:06Z Extension of health care mandate gives employers wiggle roomVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series that looks at how the Affordable Care Act affects the region.

When the White House announced last month employers will have an extra year to comply with an Affordable Care Act insurance mandate, a lot of Will Glaros' clients breathed a sigh of relief.

But he cautioned them against complacency.

Glaros, president and CEO of Employer Benefit Systems in Dyer, is tasked with helping his employer clients comply with the legislation, commonly called Obamacare.

It initially required employers with more than 50 full-time or equivalent employees to offer health insurance by Jan. 1. Failure to comply would lead to a financial penalty.

That requirement was delayed to Jan. 1, 2015.

Glaros is advising clients to prepare as though the initial deadline were still in place, using 2014 as a sort of trial run.

But business owners such as Fred Terpstra, a local Culver's franchisee, still have a lot of questions.

"I haven't gotten a straight answer," he said.

Terpstra, who has 110 employees between his Culver's restaurants in Highland and Merrillville, has sat in on nationwide phone conferences with peers, and the top question is about the impact of Obamacare on their operations.

"We can't get any answers as to any of this," he said. "We're waiting for everything to be spelled out."

A lot of fast-food and quick service sit-down restaurant owners have talked about cutting employee hours, but Terpstra said he has not made that decision yet. He doesn't feel it's the right thing to do, morally.

"I really don't think that's fair to our crew members and our management team," he said. "To take hours away — for me — I really don't think it's the right thing to do."

But the money will have to come from somewhere, Terpstra said.

Some restaurants are considering raising prices to cover the cost.

Glaros, whose company subscribes to a service that gives regular updates on changes to the law, walks clients through a 10-point checklist to help form their decision.

The first question is, "Does the group have more than 50 employees? If under 50, stop here."

For larger employers, the checklist continues, inquiring about the number of employees who work 30 or more hours a week, whether the offered plans are affordable and whether the plans pass the minimum value calculator test, which is an equation to determine whether a plan meets standards set by the ACA.

Farther down the list are math questions to help employers strategize. Discussion points include changing employee contributions and considering canceling coverage. 

Franciscan Alliance Northern Indiana Region CEO Gene Diamond has said the mandate put a wrinkle in budget talks, with uncertainty surrounding pieces of the ACA clouding projections and plans.

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