What is in this article?:
- More Work Ahead on Health Care
- Retailer Concerns
"NGA will redouble its efforts to minimize the impact and burdens on independent retail grocers.”
— Peter Larkin, president and CEO, NGA
The sweeping law will require all Americans to have insurance or else pay a penalty, and will mandate and place new parameters on the coverage of workers by their employers, effective at the start of 2014.
Retailers are also concerned about auto-enrolment — the automatic addition of employees to an employer’s plan, which FMI said could result in “double coverage” if someone is already covered by another plan.
Other aspects of the PPACA that impact food retailers include a requirement that retailers label the calorie counts on prepared foods in the same manner as restaurants, which both FMI and NGA said was not the original intent. Another aspect of the law restricts consumers from using their pre-paid flexible spending accounts on OTC medications without a prescription. Retailers are seeking to allow such spending without a prescription.
“As employers of millions of full-time, part-time and seasonal workers, uncertainty still remains for food retailers in every community in this country,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, FMI. “Within the coming 18 months, federal agencies must issue new regulations covering all of these issues and more, and each company across the industry will be forced to decide how best to adjust its health coverage and work schedules, to comply with the new law — or whether to simply withdraw from offering coverage and pay any penalties that may be required.”
Jennifer Hatcher, senior vice president, government and public affairs, FMI, told SN that the law will be an “enormous burden” for retailers, but now at least retail groups can devote their resources to lobbying for the caveats and exemptions they are seeking.
“We’ve been in a holding pattern for the first two years and three months since the first lawsuits were filed,” she noted. “When you have something as enormous and impactful as this, waiting for information and guidance just to see what’s possible has been frustrating for our members.”
She said FMI would continue to work with the regulatory agencies that have responsibility for promulgating the rules that will ultimately shape the law — the Departments of Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor — as well as with members of Congress who are seeking to influence aspects of the law through legislation.
“We’ve been working on those two tracks all along, but when you had the Supreme Court decision on the judicial side looming over this, it’s been difficult to get as much progress as we needed,” Hatcher said.
Burt Flickinger, managing director, Strategic Resource Group, New York, who consults on labor contracts, said the law could be a “competitive concern” for traditional supermarket retailers relative to employers like Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores that employ more part-time workers.