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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But for businesses with 50 employees and more, the picture is less rosy. Tate admits that in many cases, premiums will rise and employers will have to make active choices about how to react when mandates finally settle out.

Tate’s advice is to stay calm and focused. “You’ve got to get beyond the political debate,” he says. “Whether you’re a small, medium or large business, you can make smart choices to maximize tax breaks, federal subsidies and other protections to minimize the fi nancial impacts. But you can only do that if you’re an informed, savvy individual or business.”

It’s not easy, thanks in part to the shaky rollout of the site healthcare.gov and the program’s initial online enrollment, as well as the law’s numerous updates and delays.

Some of the most pressing questions include:

 ▶ With so many delays and changes for both businesses and individuals, what will the law actually look like when it’s fully implemented?

 ▶ Allegedly, 7 million individuals needed to enroll by the March 31, 2014, deadline for the ACA to be a success. While numbers have yet to finalize, what happens if it falls short?

 ▶ Should naysayers hold out hope for a repeal or replacement? Since 2010, retailers have examined any number of ways to avoid the cost increase the law could bring. In late 2012, the Huffington Post reported that Royal Farms, a 155-store chain based in Baltimore, made efforts to shift all its store-level staff to parttimers. The chain did not respond to requests to confi rm the status of its efforts or comment on that report.

While others have taken less dramatic approaches, the postponements and ongoing uncertainty are keeping everyone on edge. Some chains, such as Cumberland Farms, Framingham, Mass., are tapping Obamacare as an employer-of-choice opportunity, shifting toward a full-time employment plan. In the case of Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip, it’s improving an already-robust benefits plan.

“Our employees follow the news, they hear about other companies cutting back hours—QuikTrip’s not doing that, so it’s a huge morale booster,” says company spokesperson Mike Thornbrugh. “The only reason QuikTrip is successful is because of our employees. We’re going to take care of them regardless of what the federal government does.”

Gus Olympidis, president and CEO of 60-store Family Express, Valparaiso, Ind., says, “Our strategy, our inclination is [to] stay the course, to differentiate ourselves by delivering a package that is better than average. Obamacare creates an equalizing effect on a certain level. How are we going to be better than the better players, who are also in search of better people? At this point, we’re currently putting everything on hold. We’ve got time now. No decisions have been made at this point.”

Meanwhile, others are seeking a balance between cost and employee turnover.

“Going forward, we will look at health care and its costs every year,” says David Crawford, vice president of operations for Las Vegas-based Green Valley Grocery, which to date has offered health care to full-time employees. “We’ll try to do what is best for our employees, our business and our customers.”

Up Next: Plagued By Seemingly Arbitrary Changes

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