Health care law: compliance efforts move forward

Health care law: compliance efforts move forward

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most parts of the 2010 health care law means full steam ahead for employer compliance with the law — at least in the near term, according to legal experts from the restaurant industry.

With the high court’s affirmation of most provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act June 28, “implementation is going to continue,” said Jennifer Kraft, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw. “Employers should start looking ahead about how the employer mandate would affect them.”

Kraft and Leon Sequiera, another Seyfarth Shaw attorney presenting as part of the webinar, were on the team that helped the restaurant industry file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging the high court to reject the law’s employer mandate if it found the individual mandate unconstitutional. However, the court upheld the individual mandate.

Beginning in 2014, PPACA will require employers of 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees to offer full-time employees and their dependents an “affordable” health plan that meets a “minimum value” standard. One big problem, noted Kraft: Federal agencies have so far not issued definitive regulatory guidance on the main provisions affecting employers, including how to determine whether an employer plan is affordable and which employees are considered full-time.

Other parts of the law that affect employers kick in prior to 2014, Kraft noted. These include a new “Summary of Benefits and Coverage” format employers must use to describe health plans to employees for plan years that begin after Sept. 23, 2012, and a requirement that many employers note the value of health care benefits on W-2 forms provided to employees for the tax year 2012.

Most experts agree that politics will determine whether the law stands. The U.S. House is set to vote July 11 on a measure to repeal PPACA in full; a similar bill cleared the House in January 2011 but never made it to the Senate. The NRA will support the effort.

“Elections this fall will determine how this is ultimately implemented,” said Sequiera. “It’s too soon to say for sure what the final chapter will be.” And no matter who takes office after the elections, Sequiera notes that the law will be tweaked, with some portions likely delayed.

The restaurant industry supports efforts in Congress to repeal the law and pass health care reform that will bring down costs without saddling employers with higher taxes and regulatory burdens. The National Restaurant Association continues to file comprehensive comments with federal regulators urging clarification of parts of the law affecting employers, and urging other changes to mitigate the impact on employers if the law stands.