Effects Of Health Care Reform

Discussion has been swirling around for months about the recently signed health care reform bill and the impact it will have on employers. The impending changes mean growers, as employers, have a lot to think about in the coming months and years in order to comply with the new rules. And, with the seasonal nature of agriculture, it’s a business model that doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the bill’s provisions.

Cathleen Enright, vice president, federal government affairs, Western Growers, has been following the issue from the start. She says Western Growers helped to bring growers’ voices to the debate on the hill. “Clearly, when the drafts were developed, the drafters weren’t thinking about agriculture, and certainly not specialty crop agriculture,” she says. “If you look at the bill and read it with regard to individual mandates and employer responsibilities and such, it’s really written for an office type of work environment.”

Enright and her colleagues worked to help members of Congress understand that a one-size-fits-all approach could not apply to agriculture. “Fast forward a year, and I would say we had modest success in landing those points,” she says. “There are a number of references in the bill to seasonal workers. There’s also a recognition and follow-on conversations we’ve had with United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that agriculture doesn’t fit neatly into the law.”

What Next?

Enright says one of the biggest employer responsibility provisions within the law is what some have referred to as “pay or play.” Effective January 1, 2014, if you’re an employer of more than 50 full-time employees, you will have to offer your employees health care coverage, or potentially pay a penalty if you don’t. A full-time employee is defined as someone who works at least 30 hours per week per month.

If you have more than 50 employees, don’t offer coverage, and one of your employees goes to a state-based exchange (these eventually will be set up to provide insurance) and gets a subsidy to buy insurance, the penalty will kick in. That means a $2,000 fine per year times every full-time employee you have. “Even if only one of your employees went, you pay the penalty, times every employee, minus the first 30,” Enright explains. In other words, if you have 100 full-time employees and you don’t offer care, and just one of your workers seeks a subsidy to buy insurance, you’re on the hook for $2,000 times 70 for that year.

But, offering health care doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear, either. According to Enright, if the plan you offer is too expensive for the employee (an employee with a household income of up to 400% of the federal poverty line and either the employee’s premium is 9.8% of the household income or greater, or if you don’t pay enough of the premium), you could be subject to fines. If one employee seeks subsidized insurance from the exchange, the penalty in this case would be either $3,000 for each employee that receives the subsidy, or $2,000 for each full-time employee minus 30 — whichever is the lesser amount, Enright explains. “Congress’ intention is for the fine to be assessed monthly, but we don’t know how that’s going to happen yet,” she says.

Sorting Out Details

Employers have until 2014 to figure out what will make the most sense for their businesses, whether it be continuing to offer what they currently offer, or not providing a plan and instead possibly paying the penalties. “They’re going to have to see what works for their business model,” Enright says. If you currently are offering coverage, she recommends keeping in close contact with your plan provider. “The law is in its infancy, and there’s not full implementation guidance available yet — certainly not for the changes that are coming in 2014, but as they come, your provider should be able to talk with you about what the changes are with regard to premium costs and the scope of coverage that has to be offered,” Enright says.

Western Growers continues to work with HHS during the implementation process. “We are fully cognizant of the challenges that the health care law is going to cause for employers of seasonal workers, particularly in regards to agriculture, and we’re certainly continuing to argue the needs of specialty crop producers,” says Enright.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
FruitsQ&A With Penn State’s New Young Grower Alliance Coordinator
May 22, 2015
Erin Dugan recently joined Penn State University extension as a specialty crop innovations program manager and Young Grower Alliance coordinator. Read More
FruitsHow To Start A Young Grower Association
May 22, 2015
You have recently returned to your family’s business. You have friends and family you can tap for their knowledge and Read More
Tomato bug
Insect ControlStop Tomato Bugs From Sucking Your Crops Dry
May 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard.
Crop ProtectionResearcher Using ‘Precision Breeding’ To Create Disease-Resistant Winegrapes
May 20, 2015
Breakthrough would mean significant savings on pesticide and fungicide sprays. Read More
Spraying indoor citrus
Protected AgricultureInterest Continues To Grow In Protected Citriculture
May 20, 2015
Inside move could put producers in prime scoring position. Read More
Expansion groundbreaking for Southwest Florida Research and Education Center
CitrusSouthwest Florida Research And Education Center Embracing New Expansion
May 20, 2015
A 7,000-square-foot addition to the UF/IFAS facility will house labs and offices for potential new faculty members. Read More
storm clouds
CitrusSouth Florida Rainy Season Could Wind Up On Drier Side
May 20, 2015
National Weather Service anticipating El Niño to play a hand in possible below-normal conditions. Read More
Food SafetyProduce Safety Alliance Offers Course To Become A Certified Trainer
May 20, 2015
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has announced dates for their first two Train-the-Trainer courses this June. The first of the Read More
GrapesMatthew Fidelibus To Be Recognized For Extension Work
May 20, 2015
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) recently announced that Western Fruit Grower™ magazine contributor Matthew W. Fidelibus, of Read More
Apples & PearsGrants Available For Farmworker Education
May 19, 2015
Grants are available for farmworkers and their families interested in attending adult educational programs through the Washington Apple Educational Foundation Read More
The Latest
FruitsQ&A With Penn State’s New Young Grower Alliance Coo…
May 22, 2015
Erin Dugan recently joined Penn State University extension as a specialty crop innovations program manager and Young Grower Alliance coordinator. Read More
FruitsHow To Start A Young Grower Association
May 22, 2015
You have recently returned to your family’s business. You have friends and family you can tap for their knowledge and Read More
Tomato bug
Insect ControlStop Tomato Bugs From Sucking Your Crops Dry
May 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard.
Crop ProtectionResearcher Using ‘Precision Breeding’ To Cr…
May 20, 2015
Breakthrough would mean significant savings on pesticide and fungicide sprays. Read More
Spraying indoor citrus
Protected AgricultureInterest Continues To Grow In Protected Citriculture
May 20, 2015
Inside move could put producers in prime scoring position. Read More
Expansion groundbreaking for Southwest Florida Research and Education Center
CitrusSouthwest Florida Research And Education Center Embraci…
May 20, 2015
A 7,000-square-foot addition to the UF/IFAS facility will house labs and offices for potential new faculty members. Read More
storm clouds
CitrusSouth Florida Rainy Season Could Wind Up On Drier Side
May 20, 2015
National Weather Service anticipating El Niño to play a hand in possible below-normal conditions. Read More
Food SafetyProduce Safety Alliance Offers Course To Become A Certi…
May 20, 2015
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has announced dates for their first two Train-the-Trainer courses this June. The first of the Read More
GrapesMatthew Fidelibus To Be Recognized For Extension Work
May 20, 2015
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) recently announced that Western Fruit Grower™ magazine contributor Matthew W. Fidelibus, of Read More
Apples & PearsGrants Available For Farmworker Education
May 19, 2015
Grants are available for farmworkers and their families interested in attending adult educational programs through the Washington Apple Educational Foundation Read More
Fruits$10 Million Available For California Water Conservation…
May 19, 2015
Applications for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are now Read More
CitrusBad Weather Or Not, Preparation Always On Radar For Flo…
May 19, 2015
You cannot prevent a natural disaster from taking everything you have, but you can lessen the blow if and when it happens. Read More
Sweet CornGrower, Marketer Team Up To Launch Line Of Single-Serve…
May 19, 2015
Next Level Fresh, LLC announced the introduction of Fresh Life Harvest Whole Ear Gourmet Sweet Corn. The concept was developed Read More
CitrusSave Your Greenhouse Structures From Storms
May 19, 2015
Make sure your protected agriculture components are prepared for whatever may blow this way. Read More
FruitsGreen Fruitworm Numbers High In Pennsylvania
May 19, 2015
In their latest insect report, David Biddinger and Grzegorz Krawczyk, tree fruit entomologists discuss the timing of pest control applications Read More
Apples & PearsApple Scab Alert
May 18, 2015
Kari Peter of Penn State University Extension warned growers of possible apple scab and fire blight infections following the rainy Read More
FruitsUSDA To Invest $21M To Help Growers Cope With Drought
May 18, 2015
USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will allocate $21 million for growers and ranchers to apply conservation practices in the Read More
BB Hobbs Inc. warehouse in Plant City, FL
CitrusBB Hobbs Bolsters Business In Central Florida
May 18, 2015
Irrigation specialists celebrate opening of new branch warehouse in Plant City. Read More