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
Biocontrols 2015 Conference
CitrusGrowers Go In-Depth At Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow
March 9, 2015
The first-of-its-kind event brought growers, researchers, regulators, and suppliers together for a two-day discussion on the latest biocontrols tools and technologies. Read More
Crop ProtectionAt Paramount Farming, Mating Disruption Pays Off
February 10, 2015
To say Brad Higbee is an expert in mating disruption, the use of pheromones to confuse target pests and reduce Read More
Crop ProtectionGrower Experienced In Biocontrols Says: Be Patient
February 4, 2015
The use of biocontrols in all aspects of agriculture is becoming more widespread. But incorporating biocontrols in a vegetable farming Read More
GenNext GrowersPlan Ahead To Secure Farm Funding
April 1, 2015
Do your homework before applying for a grant or a loan. Read More
Washington Capitol building
Food SafetyBill To Halt Patchwork Of State GMO Labeling Laws
March 31, 2015
Reintroduced bill includes a new provision allowing for labeling products as GMO-free via USDA-certification process. Read More
BerriesSouthern Strawberry, Peach Growers Concerned About Cold Snap
March 31, 2015
Plastic coverings, sprinklers used to keep crops warm with consecutive nights of low temperatures. Read More
Food SafetyFDA Holding Public Meeting On FSMA Implementation Strategy
March 31, 2015
Forum to provide opportunity to discuss planning efforts for the next phase of Food Safety Modernization Act implementation. Read More
PotatoesNew Dual-Purpose Potato Variety Released
March 31, 2015
The russet-skinned variety from the University of Maine and the Maine Potato Board boasts high yields. Read More
CitrusMake Every Day Ag Day
March 31, 2015
Another National Ag Day came and went on March 18. Did you do anything to promote it this year? Even Read More
VegetablesSweet Potato Options For Midwest Growers
March 31, 2015
In the U.S., commercial production of sweet potatoes is mainly in the southern states, particularly North Carolina and Louisiana. The Read More
Farm ManagementLocation Is King When Marketing
March 31, 2015
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School marketing professor David Bell was being interviewed on my local NPR station about his recently Read More
HarvestingOptimize Your Asparagus Harvest
March 30, 2015
It is an exciting time of the year when asparagus spears start poking their heads out of the ground. Careful Read More
Apples & PearsPink Lady Apple Production Continues To Grow
March 30, 2015
Total production is up nearly 50% over 2009, and is expected to increase 33% in the next three years. Read More
The Latest
GenNext GrowersPlan Ahead To Secure Farm Funding
April 1, 2015
Do your homework before applying for a grant or a loan. Read More
Washington Capitol building
Food SafetyBill To Halt Patchwork Of State GMO Labeling Laws
March 31, 2015
Reintroduced bill includes a new provision allowing for labeling products as GMO-free via USDA-certification process. Read More
BerriesSouthern Strawberry, Peach Growers Concerned About Cold…
March 31, 2015
Plastic coverings, sprinklers used to keep crops warm with consecutive nights of low temperatures. Read More
Food SafetyFDA Holding Public Meeting On FSMA Implementation Strat…
March 31, 2015
Forum to provide opportunity to discuss planning efforts for the next phase of Food Safety Modernization Act implementation. Read More
PotatoesNew Dual-Purpose Potato Variety Released
March 31, 2015
The russet-skinned variety from the University of Maine and the Maine Potato Board boasts high yields. Read More
CitrusMake Every Day Ag Day
March 31, 2015
Another National Ag Day came and went on March 18. Did you do anything to promote it this year? Even Read More
VegetablesSweet Potato Options For Midwest Growers
March 31, 2015
In the U.S., commercial production of sweet potatoes is mainly in the southern states, particularly North Carolina and Louisiana. The Read More
Farm ManagementLocation Is King When Marketing
March 31, 2015
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School marketing professor David Bell was being interviewed on my local NPR station about his recently Read More
HarvestingOptimize Your Asparagus Harvest
March 30, 2015
It is an exciting time of the year when asparagus spears start poking their heads out of the ground. Careful Read More
Apples & PearsPink Lady Apple Production Continues To Grow
March 30, 2015
Total production is up nearly 50% over 2009, and is expected to increase 33% in the next three years. Read More
Food SafetyHow To Manage Food Safety Risks
March 30, 2015
You need to understand produce safety issues and what they mean to your farm. Read More
Laboratory beakers
CitrusGrowing Demand For Magnesium Nitrate Spurs TradeMark Ni…
March 30, 2015
Via enhancements made to its manufacturing plant, Florida company is able to provide more of its product to various fertilizer distributors and retailers throughout the country. Read More
Apples & PearsHow Will We Sell All These Apples? [Opinion]
March 30, 2015
Apple production is reaching heights that would have been unthinkable two or three decades ago. That's great news for growers — if we can sell them all profitably, Read More
blue orchard bee
Integrated Pest ManagementBlue Orchard Bee Shows Promise As An Alternative Pollin…
March 30, 2015
The native bee Osmia lignaria could soon be a valuable piece of the pollinator mix, especially for smaller almond growers. Read More
Richard Jones
Farm ManagementDon’t Burn Out This Spring
March 30, 2015
Finding ways to limit stress will benefit both you and your business. Read More
Apples & PearsSounding Off On GMOs: The Arctic Apple Decision
March 27, 2015
Industry leaders share their feelings on the recently approved genetically modified apples. Read More
BerriesBuilding A Better Black Raspberry
March 27, 2015
Studies focusing on consumer preference, aphid resistance, heat tolerance, and genetics aim to capitalize on an expanding market. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateMore California Citrus Placed Under Psyllid Quarantine
March 27, 2015
Asian citrus psyllid is found in Madera County – the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Read More