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

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Apples & PearsBeware Of Fruit Rots During Apple Harvest
September 2, 2014
Conditions lately have been ripe for fungi fiasco. Read More
Apples & PearsThey’re Back! 2014 Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Populat…
September 2, 2014
Pressure building as traps filling up with pest by the hundreds. Read More
Farm ManagementStudy Shows ‘Megadrought’ On The Radar For …
September 2, 2014
Global warming trends fuel parched prediction from scientists. Read More
Farm ManagementTrimble’s Connected Farm Now Includes Field Data Mana…
September 2, 2014
Trimble adds two apps that work with their Connected Farm Web-based solution, providing growers and their advisors with more detailed field information. Read More
FruitsTips To Help You Manage Postharvest Ripening
September 2, 2014
Humidity, ethylene, and temperature can all impact fruit quality. Read More
CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardDespite Industry Challenges, Florida Citrus Leader Has …
September 1, 2014
2014 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Mike Sparks feels confident in crop sector's ability to regain strength. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoFood Safety Modernization Act Is On The Plate
September 1, 2014
Florida Ag Expo agenda to serve up important features of looming regulations. Read More
CEU SeriesCEU Series: Put Weeds Out To Pasture
September 1, 2014
No matter where they are, plants out of place can be problematic. Read More
TomatoesProduction Reaches An All-Time High For Processing Toma…
August 29, 2014
A record high is predicted for the 2014 processing tomato crop. Read More
CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
Disease ControlLate Blight Update Reveals Heightened Activity
August 28, 2014
While several states in the Northeast have confirmed the presence of late blight, the disease has not been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
EquipmentNew Tractors Improve Maneuverability And Operator Contr…
August 28, 2014
The Magnum Rowtrac tractors from Case IH meet growers’ cropping needs through a wide variety of row spacing and belt options.   Read More
NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More