Local businesses welcome delay to insurance mandate
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jul 03, 2013 | 3137 views |  0 comments | 119 119 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Phil Webb did not know how the federal mandate that some businesses provide health insurance to all employees would affect his company when it first became law.

After three years, he still is not sure but is glad to get another year to find out and prepare.

"This is all very complicated," said Webb, owner of Webb Concrete and Building Materials in Oxford. "We know it's going to affect us. We just don't know how it's going to affect us."

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday it will delay for a year a mandate that businesses with at least 50 employees provide their workers with health insurance — a key component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act federal health reform law. To some local businesses the one-year delay is a welcomed reprieve from a law they say is burdensome, complicated and still has too many unknowns.

Businesses were previously required to comply with the mandate by Jan. 1, 2014 or face fines, but now have until Jan.1, 2015 to meet the requirements.

According to a Treasury Department press release, the mandate was postponed due to multiple complaints from employers. The White House will develop new, less complicated regulatory guidance and reporting requirements for the mandate, the press release said.

Webb said his company has not had a problem so far complying with the scheduled mandate, but is still glad the delay was approved.

"This is going to be a big help for small business people," Webb said. "Anything that helps small business, our government should do."

Wayne Reaves of Pell City, who owns nine Jack's restaurant franchises in Calhoun and several surrounding counties, said he appreciated the delay.

"It will help and give us another year to prepare for it," Reaves said.

Reaves, whose restaurants had traditionally provided insurance to management employees only, said he'd been doing everything possible to comply with the mandate.

"The problem is we were getting information piecemeal," Reaves said. "What is this coverage going to cost ... They couldn't tell us."

Rosemary Elebash, Alabama state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the delay is proof the mandate is a bad law.

"Our members are glad to see the administration is pushing back the start of the employer mandate ... but, really, this is just a bandage," Elebash said. "Ultimately, the best thing the administration could do is trash the whole thing and start over."

Nancy King Dennis, spokeswoman for the Alabama Retail Association, said her organization's membership welcomed the mandate delay.

"I think our members are excited about getting more time," Dennis said. "There has not been a whole lot of direction out of Washington about what we're supposed to do."

Georges Benjamin, executive director for the American Public Health Association, said he supported the delay and the mandate in general. According to its website, American Public Health is the oldest association of public health professionals in the world.

"I think it's a reasonable step to giving employers a little more time to work things out," Benjamin said.

Benjamin said the mandate will help more people share the cost of health care in the country.

Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of BR Williams Trucking in Oxford, said that while he appreciates the delay, the process to comply with the mandate so far has been a burden. Brown said his company switched to a costlier insurance plan to continue providing full coverage for employees and comply with the mandate.

"All this stuff we're having to deal with because of health regulations," Brown said. "But we couldn't wait on the luxury of a delay, we had to go ahead and get compliant."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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