Cover Story: Obamacare: This Might Hurt a Little

An examination of what the Affordable Care Act means to your business

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
Melissa Vonder Haar, Tobacco Editor

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The Affordable Care Act is definitely a moving target. A quick review of just a few ongoing developments at press time show the numerous and seemingly arbitrary changes occurring with each passing week, touching on the flux in deadlines, the program’s tenuous progress and even the elements within the law itself.

Easily the most c-store-relevant adjustment has been the fluctuating deadlines for the employer mandate. Businesses with more than 50 employees were initially told they’d have to offer coverage to anyone working more than 30 hours a week once the majority of health-care reform went into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

That deadline has now changed multiple times. The first delay came last July, when the Obama administration announced it was pushing the employer mandate back by one year.

In a written statement on the Treasury Department’s website (where the delay was first announced), the administration said the decision was made to accomplish two goals: “First, it will allow us to consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements consistent with the law. Second, it will provide time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees.”

That date was further pushed back in February 2014, when it was revealed that companies with 50 to 100 employees will have an additional year (until January 2016) to offer coverage, and companies with more than 100 employees would have to cover only 70% of workers in 2015 (as opposed to 95%). It was also announced in February that employers would have to provide certification that they did not drop workers in order to avoid providing coverage.

Of course, by the time January 2016 arrives, retailers could be dealing with a drastically different law—and costs— than what’s on the books today. Other updates are occurring as news about the ACA’s execution emerges and measurements of success become known.

Measuring Up

Though there are plenty of “back-ups” in place to ensure Obamacare works, regardless of signups, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) originally had set the goal of 7 million insured by the end of the open-enrollment period on March 31, 2014. That figure later dropped to 6 million and, as the deadline approached, the administration backed off the goal altogether.

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