I have no doubt that as business owners and operators, U.S. IAAPA members have been paying attention to the recent health care debate in Washington. We’ve been paying attention, too, as this legislation has the potential to impact every U.S. IAAPA member. Below are some of the steps we’ve taken on health care legislation:
• In July, IAAPA President and CEO Charlie Bray sent a letter to the entire U.S. Senate highlighting our concerns about seasonal workers. We focused on the Senate because the Finance Committee was working on its bill at the time. The bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (known as the HELP committee) contained an exemption for seasonal workers but it was limited to extremely small businesses.
• During August and September, IAAPA joined forces with two other associations that represent seasonal workers to meet with key Senate offices and discuss the problems facing employers. These meetings included the offices of Senators Cantwell, Cornyn, Ensign, Enzi, Hagan, Lincoln, Menendez, Mikulski, Nelson, and Snowe.
• Although many of the staff we met with on the Senate side expressed sympathy for or at least interest in the difficulty of seasonal employers in addressing health care, no champion was identified to press our cause. On the House side, Representative C.A. (Dutch) Ruppersberger (D-MD-2) volunteered to champion our position. He contacted Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the issue.
• Each week during August, IAAPA conducted grassroots activities, facilitating contact between U.S. IAAPA members and Members of Congress. These included a survey to get an idea of how many seasonal employees our members employ, a list of town hall meetings and talking points on the issue, information on scheduling meetings in the district or state, and action alerts for phone calls and e-mails to Congress.
• In October, we expanded our coalition in an effort to gain broader support. In addition to IAAPA, the group grew to more than 40 associations and businesses. This coalition sent a letter to every Member of Congress outlining the issue and supporting a seasonal worker amendment to the House bill proposed by Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3). This amendment was not included in the version of the bill that passed the House. However, Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX-2) included the letter in the record so that it is part of the legislative history of the House bill.
Health care reform is sweeping legislation that will impact most employers in the United States in some way. IAAPA is particularly concerned about the provisions that relate to the temporary and seasonal workers the attractions industry hires during peak seasons.
While both the House and Senate bills are silent specifically on seasonal workers, the treatment of such workers will most likely be determined by the definition of “full time.”
The House bill does not define “full-time employee,” and instead directs a newly created “Administrator” to determine what is “full time.” The Senate bill defines “full-time employee” as working 30 hours or more per week, as averaged over one month.
A related provision that is problematic for IAAPA, and more generally employers of temporary and seasonal workers, is a provision in the Senate bill which requires employers to enroll their employees in their health care plans within 30 days or pay the penalty for not providing health insurance.
Now that both chambers have passed their respective bills, the process of reconciling them into one bill that both chambers can agree on begins. Instead of using the traditional method of reconciliation, a conference committee, House and Senate leadership, along with the White House, opted to use an informal process where leadership will meet to work out the differences in the bills and then both houses will adopt the final, agreed-upon language as amendments to their respective bills.
While leadership has some major issues to work out, including if the bill will include a “Public Option” (a government-run health insurance plan), IAAPA is continuing to work with like-minded industries to address seasonal workers in the final legislation. If you'd like to help our effort, you can contact House and Senate leadership through our Grassroots Action Center.
As always, stay tuned to the blog and www.IAAPA.org/government for updates on the situation.