Retail associations united in opposition to healthcare overhaul

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New York City Associations representing the retail industry were united in their opposition to the historic healthcare legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday. The bill, HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is expected to expand health insurance coverage to most Americans by 2014. It was passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve and given final approval by the House on Sunday.

“Congress has embarked on a dangerous, anti-job experiment in the midst of the worst economy our nation has seen in decades,” said NRF senior VP for government relations Steve Pfister.

With the new law and proposed amendments requiring employers to either provide healthcare coverage to full-time workers or pay hefty penalties for failing to do so, it is “an economic certainty” that retailers operating under razor-thin profit margins will be forced to reduce the size of their work forces or slow expansion plans, Pfister said.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association also opposed the measure, as did the National Restaurant Association. In addition to requiring many restaurant operators to contribute to healthcare coverage for their employees, the new legislation makes menu labeling the law of the land.

"The National Restaurant Association opposed the bill that passed the House because it includes provisions that will impose tremendous burdens on America's restaurants and hurt our industry's ability to create and sustain jobs," said Scott DeFife, the NRA's executive VP of policy and government affairs.

The International Franchise Association also voiced opposition to the bill.

"We support healthcare reform, but this bill does not reduce the long-term costs of health care and puts more regulatory burden on small businesses," said David French, the IFA's VP of government relations. "The House-passed bill imposes a costly employer mandate, offers inadequate and unworkable tax credits to subsidize the mandated coverage and hides the true cost with an array of new taxes on small-business owners."

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What impact will the healthcare overhaul have on your business? E-mail mwilson@chainstoreage.com.

The passage of the legislation by the House on Sunday was not the end of the process. The House also voted 220-211 to approve H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, a package of amendments to the Senate bill. That measure now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be considered this week.

The Senate bill imposes a penalty of $750 per full-time worker on companies with 50 or more employees that do not provide coverage to full-time workers. But the House reconciliation bill would increase that penalty to $2,000, with the first 30 workers exempted.

If an employer offers coverage but the coverage is deemed unaffordable to a full-time employee, that employee can opt out to a new purchasing exchange. The company would then be assessed $3,000 for each of those employees up to a cap of $2,000 for every full-time worker on the payroll. This mandate becomes applicable in 2014.