Ohio produce business braces for health care changes - The Packer

Ohio produce business braces for health care changes

10/30/2013 04:10:00 PM
Jim Offner

As of Oct. 1, the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, which Democrats passed strictly on a party line in Congress and a Democrat president signed into law in 2010, officially went live.

That was the deadline for state and federal health insurance exchanges, or open marketplaces, to begin signing up individuals, whom the law requires to carry insurance by Jan. 1.

All businesses employing 50 or more full-time workers will be required to provide health coverage to those workers or pay a per-employee fine.

President Barack Obama, who signed the act into law, recently sidestepped the letter of the law he signed and unilaterally extended the business mandate to Jan. 1, 2015.

No matter, said Nate Filler, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Grocers Association in Columbus.

He said Obamacare is the biggest issue facing his industry.

The year’s waiver that businesses got will not matter, he said.

“Folks are still pressing ahead, even though it is delayed, to try and implement Filler said.

Critics of the law said businesses will hire fewer full-timers and move some erstwhile full-time workers to part-time status in order to skirt the requirements of the law. Opponents also have said some businesses are apt to simply pay the fines, rather than cover employees, since it will cost less to do the latter.

“You’re going to have and we are already seeing a lot more folks at part-time that unfortunately you’ve had to cut down,” Filler said.

He said that’s even more difficult on the retail business, which historically has had a high employee turnover rate.

“You don’t want to lose those good, valued employees, or there are those that may be forced to find two part-time jobs,” he said.

Some Ohio produce wholesalers say they fall under the 50-worker minimum, so the law’s effects on their policies will be relatively minimal.

Others say they aren’t so fortunate.

“We’ve been focused on that for two years because we’re a heavy user of labor,” said Tony DiNovo, president of Columbus-based wholesaler DNO Inc.

Therefore, the law will affect DNO, which has about 150 employees, DiNovo said.

He also said the law is a good idea.

“Personally, I’d say I don’t see any other way to solve the health care needs, although it will be costly,” he said.

A little guidance on how to abide by the new health care law would help, but little has been forthcoming, said James Sanfillipo III, partner with Sanfillipo Produce Co. Inc. in Columbus.

“We sent our general manager to a seminar on it, but even there they could not give him absolutes on what was going to happen,” he said.

Sanfillipo said he thinks the law will work, “as long as everybody is on a level playing field.”

Moving full-time workers to part-time status is not a workable scenario at Sirna & Sons Produce, a Ravenna, Ohio-based wholesale produce distributor, said Tom Sirna, chief executive officer.

“We are concerned for the simple reason that a lot of people are going to try to beat the scenario and go to part-time help,” he said. “We have drivers, receivers and people loading trucks. How do you have part-time drivers? Now, you’re going to hire twice as many and give them 25-30 hours a week?

“We don’t know what’s going to happen.”



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