Retail News Breaks Archives
Retail trade groups criticize health reform decision
June 29th, 2012
NEW YORK – The Supreme Court's ruling to let stand the major elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health reform law drew fire from retail industry organizations.
In the 5-4 decision announced Thursday, the court determined that the PPACA's controversial "individual mandate" — which required individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty — was constitutional under Congress' power to levy taxes.
"Today's Supreme Court ruling upholds PPACA's multitude of reporting requirements and mandates for food retailers and wholesalers to offer health coverage to their employees," Leslie Sarasin, chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), said in a statement on the June 28 ruling. "As employers of millions of full-time, part-time and seasonal workers, uncertainty still remains for food retailers in every community in this country."
As the implementation of PPACA continues, a lot will need to be accomplished in a short time frame, and retailers will be compelled to make some hard decisions, according to Sarasin.
"Food retailers will need to follow government agencies' yet-to-be-released criteria for determining which employees are required to be offered health coverage under PPACA and whether that employer-offered coverage, as required under the new law, is deemed 'affordable' and passes the 'minimal value' requirements in the statute," she explained. "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."
The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) also pointed to the burdens that PPACA will place on employers.
"We're disappointed by today's ruling," NRF CEO Matthew Shay stated, adding, "As it stands, the law wrongly focuses more on penalizing employers and the private sector than reducing health costs."
The PPACA has a number of shortcomings, Shay noted. "Although the Court upheld the law's constitutionality, many problems remain: It penalizes employers too much, it doesn't do enough to reduce the cost of health care, and it is unreasonably complicated and difficult to implement and administer."
PPACA takes effect in about a year and a half months, yet employers have received no real guidance on its implementation, according to RILA president Sandy Kennedy.
"With the Supreme Court decision now behind us, the focus must turn to the employer mandate and the effect that impending changes to employer-sponsored coverage will have on the nearly 170 million Americans who receive health care through their employer," Kennedy stated. "President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that if they liked their health insurance, they could keep it. However, today, with just 17 months until the law takes effect, and no meaningful implementation guidelines available for employers, those assurances are in doubt."
FMI's Sarasin also cited PPACA provisions impacting the supermarket industry: a restaurant menu labeling requirement incorporated into the legislation just before its passage followed by a proposed FDA rule that could expand regulations intended for restaurants to supermarkets, and a requirement that customers present a prescription before using an Flexible Spending Account (FSA) debit card to buy over-the-counter medicines while continuing to allow the use of FSA debit cards to purchase eligible items that are not medicines.