Friday, March 19, 2010

Health Care Reform Update: Final Language Released

The language of the final health care bill was released yesterday afternoon. This bill is actually an amendment which makes changes to the legislation the Senate passed on Christmas Eve, so to see what the entire law says, you have to go back and forth between the two bills (and existing U.S. Code). For now, the House appears to be sticking to its promise to give legislators and the public 72 hours to read the bill before the House votes on it. The vote is currently scheduled for Sunday.

Throughout the health care debate, IAAPA has primarily been concerned with how the bill will treat the part-time and seasonal workers upon which the attraction industry relies heavily. Here are the provisions that relate to those employees:

• Employers are not required to provide coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week.

• Employers of 50 or more full-time equivalents will be considered a “large employer” and will be subject to penalties for not offering qualifying coverage to full-time employees. A full-time equivalent is determined by dividing the aggregate number of hours of service of employees who are not full-time employees for the month by 120. That number is added to the number of full-time employees. If the number is greater than or equal to 50, a business is considered to be a “large employer.” For example, if your business employs 18 full-time employees and 50 part-time employees who work 20 hours a week (or 80 hours a month), you will be considered a "large employer".

• If you have fewer than 50 full-time equivalents, you are not subject to penalties for not providing coverage. If you are a very small business, you may be eligible for tax credits.

• A new provision disregards the first 30 workers employed by the employer in calculating the amount of the penalty.

• If you are a “large employer” and do not offer health care coverage AND you have at least one full-time employee who receives a premium tax credit or cost-sharing subsidy, you will be assessed a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee. However, you may subtract 30 from the number of full-time employees and only pay the penalty for the remaining number of employees (e.g., if you have met the definition of “large employer” above and you have 32 full-time employees, you will only pay the penalty for two of them).

• If you are a “large employer,” do not offer “affordable” coverage, and you have at least one full-time employee who receives a premium tax credit to purchase coverage in an exchange, you will be assessed a penalty of $3,000 per employee who receives a credit.

• Employers have 90 days to enroll full-time workers in a health care plan before the penalties begin.

IAAPA is part of a seasonal worker coalition that has worked diligently to secure a fix for temporary and seasonal workers. We consider the 90-day delay a small victory. However, we would still like to see a clarification of full-time employment as 390 hours in a calendar quarter. We will explore the possibility of clarifying this further in the regulatory process if this bill is passed.

For the health care legislation to become law, the House will first pass (or "deem and pass") the health care bill the Senate passed in December. That bill will go to President Obama for his signature.

Then the House will pass a second bill, which will be the final language of the health care bill (referenced above). The Senate would have to vote on the second bill. If the Senate parliamentarian agrees the amendments are appropriate to be considered under the reconciliation process, the Senate will operate under special rules where only 51 votes are needed for final passage. The second bill will essentially replace the original Senate bill, which by that point will be law. The actual changes the legislation makes will not be effective for three years, during which time they will go through the regulatory process and be considered by different agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service.

If you would like to voice your opinion on this legislation to your elected officials, we encourage you to use our grassroots action center.

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