By Burton Speakman
There is a sense of relief among a number of local businesses that a provision forcing businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance has been delayed until 2015.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration unexpectedly announced the one-year delay, until after the 2014 elections. The delay in the employer requirement does not affect a provision in the law that requires individuals to carry health insurance starting next year or face fines.
“We’re looking at the delay as a positive thing,” said Zack Orville, assistant manager at Das Dutch Haus Restaurant in Columbiana.
A number of businesses didn’t understand all the provisions in the bill, he said. The delay will help companies with more time to make plans for what to do when the law goes into effect.
“We’ve went to a couple of seminars about it and still weren’t sure. I think they were still writing some of it,” Orville said. “It’s kind of a blessing we have more time to decide what route we want to take.”
Employees haven’t spoken much about the individual mandate, he said.
“Most of our employees have insurance through a spouse,” Orville said.
Those who don’t have insurance have been waiting for management to tell them if they will be offered insurance or if they will have to seek it elsewhere, he said.
This provision will be a problem for both large and small businesses whenever it does go into effect, said Joe Bell, spokesman for the Cafaro Co.
“I don’t think anybody is popping the champagne corks about this. It’s just a reprieve,” he said.
Most companies just want to see this whole thing go away, Bell said, adding the entire Affordable Care Act is going to be a major expense.
“The hope was Congress would defund or overturn the act, but that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere,” he said.
The individual mandate remaining is going to be an issue for some people, and there are probably a number who are going to take the fine, Bell said.
Mike Naffah, owner of several business in the Valley including the Shale Tavern and the Hampton Inn in Canfield, said he was relieved that the Obama administration had delayed the requirement.
“Frankly I’ve been hoping it would go away entirely, and it looks like that may happen,” he said.
The act is going to be tough on smaller businesses if it goes into effect, Naffah said, noting smaller businesses already have to struggle to survive.
The individual requirement remaining in the act will hurt employees such as those who work for Naffah, he said.
“From what I’ve seen, somebody is going to be hurt by this no matter what happens,” Naffah said.
There are some automotive dealers in the area who would fall under the provision, said Steve Chos, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Eastern Ohio.
The Ohio Automotive Dealers Association has sent information to local dealers about how they should plan to deal with the Affordable Care Act after the change, Chos said.
Under the health law, companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable coverage to their employees who work more than 30 hours per week, or risk a series of escalating tax penalties if just one worker ends up getting government-subsidized insurance. Originally, that requirement was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, 2014. It now will be delayed until 2015.
Most medium-sized and large businesses already offer health insurance, and the mandate was expected to have the biggest consequences for major chain hotels, restaurants and retail stores that employ many low-wage workers. Some had threatened to cut workers’ hours, and others said they were putting off hiring.
Associated Press reports contributed to this article