WASHINGTON -- Among most convenience store retailers, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (ACA) is very unpopular--in fact, according to preliminary results from CSP's 2012 Outlook Survey, the law ranks among the top three business challenges faced by retailers today.
The upcoming presidential election has offered a glimmer of hope for these retailers, as Republican nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, has campaigned on a pledge to repeal what many are calling "Obamacare" on his first day in office. He has since clarified that he will keep the more popular parts of the law--and according to one legal analyst for the c-store industry, he may have no choice.
"I think it will be very difficult to repeal," Scott Sinder, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, chair of the firm's government affairs and public policy practice group and outside council for NACS, told CSP Daily News. "Even for Republicans that have been flirting with some sort of repeal agenda, the private-market reforms are wildly popular, they're in place and insurers have imported their policies and practices into the new requirements."
And despite the fact that some states--Alabama, Florida, Montana and Wyoming--have amendments on next week's ballot that would void the law's health-insurance requirement, Sinder described these as "political theater" in light of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the mandate in the ACA. "We have a federal statute, it's the law of the land and it overrides any conflicting state requirements or laws."
However, while the market reforms are largely in place, Sinder noted there is room for tweaking the setup of the law's insurance exchanges, subsidies and penalties; even if President Barack Obama is re-elected, he and Congress will have to address some problematic areas that have emerged since the act was made law.
Closer to home, the consultant does expect to see companies work to classify more of their employees as part time. This is in response to the ACA's requirement that companies with more than 50 full-time employees that do not offer health-insurance coverage pay a fine if their employees receive premium tax credits to buy their own insurance, or $2,000 per full-time employee beyond the first 30 workers, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
For these retailers, Sinder advised that time is of the essence. "Get those things in place before the end of the year," he said. "There's a new safe harbor to classify employees that involves a look-back. [Retailers] will be in the best position if you've taken all the steps to institutionalize whatever you're going to do on that before the end of 2012, so you have all of 2013 to use as your evaluation period."
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