Keeping Main Street healthy through health care reform

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2013 NRF Annual Convention & EXPOWhat is health care reform, and how much should I worry about catching it like the common cold? Next Tuesday, Dave Ratner, proprietor of Dave’s Pet & Soda City, and I will host a special session at the Main Street Retailing Forum – part of Retail’s Big Show in New York – to discuss strategies to cope with the health reform law as it develops and strengthens through implementation. Sounds a little flu-like, doesn’t it?

Ratner is the American Dream personified. From his humble, garage-based start, he has built his business into a six-store chain that competes with and thrives against larger stores. But Ratner didn’t have to cope with the Affordable Care Act when he was starting out. In the latter years he has dealt with comparable concerns under the Massachusetts reform law. The ACA will add new complexity to the mix in the years ahead, particularly in regard to future expansion. I can tell you first-hand that the details at times can be a bit mind-numbing.

New ACA rules for coverage and penalties will begin in January 2014. Generally, a business with 50 or more full-time employees (at 30 hours per week; whereas part-time employee hours are totaled to determine the equivalent to full-time employees) must provide qualifying and affordable coverage to full-time employees or pay substantial fines. Dependents of full-time employees must also be offered coverage but the employer will not be penalized for not contributing to that coverage. Different rules will determine when the ACA mandated coverage is “affordable” or not to eligible employees. These are a few of the topics I’ll discuss with business owners in a webinar on February 1.

Entrepreneurism is the very soul and essence of Main Street. Attaching consequence – a spiked ceiling, in effect – to growth at 50 employees could chill the drive that fuels Main Street entrepreneurs like Ratner. The cycle works so that growth builds jobs which helps fuel the proliferation of further growth and jobs, and so on. Anything that threatens to stunt that growth is cause for concern.

NRF continues to work closely and cooperatively with regulators in the Obama Administration to help make it easier for retailers of all sizes to cope with the ACA’s implementation. Hopefully our session will help inoculate Ratner and his Main Street peers against some of the more severe and unintended effects of health care reform. Now that sounds much healthier, doesn’t it?

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