Reexamining Healthcare Reform

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law more than three years ago. It is still not ready to roll out.

On July 2, the Obama administration announced the delay of a key provision that would require businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide them adequate healthcare insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee. Called the “employer mandate,” this provision was set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, but it is now postponed until January 2015.

Immediately upon returning to work after the July 4 recess, many congressional leaders urged the administration to grant everybody the same one-year reprieve from the mandates, saying the recent decision to delay the requirement only on businesses would be unfair to everyone else. Critics argue that the selective delay will force more people—who would have otherwise gotten insurance through their jobs—to buy insurance out of their own pocket, buy insurance with the help of additional taxpayer subsidies, or just opt out and pay additional fines.

The “individual mandate” has not been changed yet. Oct. 1, 2013, is still the start date for open enrollment into state-based health insurance exchanges for Americans without any other kind of healthcare coverage. The House of Representatives has voted to delay both the employer and the individual mandate. It is clear these delays to the act will not solve the larger problems with the ACA, but there is still a chance to repair some of the currently unworkable provisions.

As you may recall, NECA was opposed to the ACA because of its negative effects on our industry. Since its enactment, NECA’s Government Affairs team and our politically astute members have been pushing Congress to initiate reforms that improve healthcare delivery and reduce regulatory burdens and costs on businesses that already provide good coverage to their employees.

In addition, NECA offers more information, education and compliance assistance to help our chapters and members address employees’ healthcare coverage in light of ACA. As union employers, NECA contractors are concerned about this law. Our chief concern centers on the law’s failure to recognize and respect employers and workers who participate in multiemployer healthcare plans.

Under our collectively bargained labor agreements, we are legally obligated to pay into multiemployer healthcare funds on behalf of our productive employees. Since World War II, NECA contractors have provided quality healthcare coverage to 26 million electrical workers, retirees and their families. Today, more than 4,500 electrical contractors do so through the national NECA-IBEW Family Medical Care Plan and more than 150 local healthcare plans.

But, given the 50-employee threshold to trigger ACA’s employer mandate, small businesses that are not already providing coverage are not similarly obligated. They won’t be penalized for failing to provide healthcare coverage to their employees who, instead, will have to rely on the exchanges at their own or at the taxpayers’ expense. That creates an uneven playing field. 

“As the ACA is currently written, our small business owners and job creators will be penalized for doing the right thing,” said Marco Giamberardino, NECA executive director, government affairs.

In fact, as it is currently written, certain ACA provisions jeopardize our multiemployer health plans, will likely cause massive increases in insurance premiums, will likely cause NECA-IBEW health plans to incur high taxes and fees, and will likely reduce benefits to employees. And that’s only within one industry! About 20 million people in America currently get healthcare coverage through a multiemployer plan; therefore, if a significant amount of those plans are hurt by ACA and other healthcare statutes, I, you, and every other U.S. taxpayer will be forced to pay for an expensive mop-up. In fact, several labor unions have recently called for repeal or major reform of the ACA.

NECA believes multiemployer plans should be treated in the same manner as qualified health plans purchased on the exchanges. NECA believes additional provisions in the law must be revised to strengthen the delivery of benefits through employment-based plans. NECA believes that Congress and the administration must reexamine the numerous tax increases mandated to offset the cost of “affordable” care.

Since construction employers frequently cite uncertainty about the ACA as a reason they hesitate to further expand their company operations or increase hiring, NECA believes this issue must be addressed promptly.

I hope you are a believer, too.

About the Author

Dennis F. Quebe

President, NECA
Dennis Quebe is a former president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and contributed the President's Desk column monthly. He took office in January 2012 and served a three-year term.

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