Wrestling Gators and Health Care
Distributors at the HARDI Focus 2013 Human Resources and Organizational Management Conference in Tampa, Fla., spent a day and a half wrestling with health care reform, wage and salary plans, generational differences, and a list of economic and legislative updates from Capitol Hill. Taking a break after the health care session, attendees walked out onto the resort bridge - it extended over the water outside the meeting room - and joked about starting happy hour early. Lacey Robinson, vice president of Gregory and Appel, an Indianapolis-based insurance company, had just presented the basics of what health care reform meant to business owners. She explained what information was necessary to understand and advised attendees how to prepare. It had been a lot of information to take in and with regulations still being written, those in attendance appeared subdued by the gravity of the task.
Standing on the bridge, absorbing the sun and the health care information, attendees peered over the bridge and spotted two alligators. Neither was full size yet, but wrestling one would likely be painful. Despite their health care reform woes, it was probably better to observe the laws of nature and stay on the bridge. Leave the gator wrestling to the professionals.
WRESTLING THE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES QUESTIONAccording to Robinson, one of the first things an employer needs to do is determine how many full-time employees - those working 30 plus hours - are on staff so they can decide if they fall under the small or large employer category. She warned that determining the amount of full-time employees requires employers to account for all of the hours that its employees, across all branches and locations, are working.
“The hours worked by part-time employees - those working less than 30 hours per week - are included in the calculation by taking their total number of monthly hours worked and dividing them by 120,” said Robinson. “For example, a company that has 20 part-time employees who all work 24 hours per week (96 hours per month) would be the equivalent of 16 full-time employees. Add that to the 35 full-time employees the company has and it would be considered a large employer based on a total full-time equivalent count of 51.”
Currently included in the classification of part-time employees are contract employees, especially if a distributor is their sole contractor. Seasonal employees are being questioned in the calculation as well, although that has not yet been clearly defined by the laws.
SURVIVING HEALTH CARE REFORMThe original document of the approved Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was 2,000 pages. Since then there has been an estimated 15,000 pages of clarification added. The more detail that is uncovered, the more businesses seem to question if this is just some urban legend that will die down. Be assured, this is no passing legend. Open enrollment in this new system is set to begin Oct. 1, 2013, and the new laws are scheduled to take effect and demand compliance by Jan. 1, 2014. Consider health care as an inevitable alligator encounter. But be encouraged. Not all of these encounters come to a gruesome end. In fact, many don’t. Alligators live by certain instincts and humans learn to understand and respect those behavioral patterns. As long as both parties play by the rules then there is nothing of consequence to report. If a human crosses the line, however, there’s a price to pay and it is usually a pretty high one.
The same could be said about the new health care laws. Respect them, understand them, and play by their rules. Doing otherwise could impose crippling fines and leave a distributorship vulnerable to closure or other unexpected consequences. It’s time to face off with health care reform, but with a knowledgeable HR staff or consultant, this difficult health care challenge can be conquered. Don’t believe me? Just ask the health care insurance consultant in alligator boots.