ALEXANDRIA, VA: Three years of lobbying by the Society of American Florists (SAF) paid off on February 10 when the Obama Administration released regulations that give employers more flexibility on how to comply with several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s regulations regarding the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions of the ACA clarify how the federal government will enforce employer-related provisions of the ACA in 2015 and beyond. Notably, the regulations include several components of transition relief for which SAF and its partners in the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care (E-FLEX) coalition have advocated since the ACA passed in 2010.
“SAF truly appreciates the Administration’s efforts to accommodate concerns expressed by the business community with the relief provided in this final rule,” said SAF Senior Director of Government Relations Corey Connors.
The transition relief provided by Treasury includes:
- Employer Mandate “Phase-In” for Mid-Sized Employers: Large employer mandate penalties will not apply until January 2016, instead of January 2015, for businesses between 50 and 99 full-time employees if the employer provides a certification as described by the regulation.
- Percentage of Workforce Receiving Offer of Coverage: Businesses that are subject to large employer mandate provisions in 2015 must offer coverage to at least 70 percent of their full-time employees to avoid penalties, down from 95 percent in preliminary rulemaking. The 95 percent offer of coverage will take effect for all large employers in 2016.
- Previous Transition Relief Adopted in Final Rule: Additional E-FLEX recommendations that made it into the final rulemaking include a more common sense way to determine an employee’s full-time status, whether a plan meets the ACA’s affordability standard, and more clarity on spouse and dependent coverage among other measures.
Connors points out the Treasury did not, however, adjust the definition of full-time employment from 30 hours per week to 40, due to the specific definitions provided in the original legislation.
“That’s an issue for Congress,” Connors said, and SAF members will put it in front of legislators during SAF Congressional Action Days (March 10-11, 2014, in Washington, D.C.).
“Thirty hours per week is not a standard of full-time work that is used by the U.S. floral industry, and seasonal employment often extends beyond the six-month definition provided in these final regulations,” said Connors, adding that “the time is ripe” to make a push for this issue because there’s “significant” bipartisan support for changing the fulltime definition to 40 hours.
“Treasury has done just about all they can do to provide relief,” Connors said. “The rest is up to Congress.”
Reflecting on the original employer responsibility provisions compared to where they stand today after 36 months of intense lobbying, Connors said, “Our work has paid off.” But he is quick to add that the floral industry’s most important work lies ahead — in participating in SAF Congressional Action Days.
“We’ll need as many voices here in Washington in March and significant grassroots support thereafter to make these changes a reality,” Connors said.
SAF will continue to review the employer responsibility provisions and share information with members about compliance in SAF’s Wednesday E-Brief, Week in Review, and Floral Management, as well as on its its Healthcare Resource Center.