SINCE 1989, my family and I have owned and operated The Bedford Village Inn (BVI). It has been a rewarding experience. However, in the past several years the weak economy, increases in energy costs and an unemployment tax that has tripled have been areas of concern. The most recent addition to these challenges is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
On its face, Obamacare seems like a positive regulation; it would appear to extend health care to a larger section of the workforce, which is a worthy goal. But like many of the Affordable Care Act's other provisions, good intentions do not translate to workable policy for businesses that have to implement it.
The regulations and hidden taxes have already caused our group health policy costs to increase 25 percent over the past two years. It is not true that employees can keep their coverage - our employee coverage has already changed due to cost increases. The policy is not as rich as it once was, and I am fairly sure, from what I am hearing, that we will have to make further changes in the future. These changes are ultimately detrimental to both employees and the BVI.
Another big problem is the act's definition of a "large business" as one that employs 50 full-time-equivalent employees. Part-time hours are added and calculated to determine a full-time-equivalent employee. This regulation is a dagger aimed at the heart of full-time employment.
Businesses like mine that hire many part-time employees (most are part time by choice) due to the nature of our business are required by law to provide health care to all full-time employees (30 hours/week is full time according to the law). The BVI is a borderline "large" employer and we have to do monthly calculations to determine if we meet the threshold of having 50 full-time-equivalent employees, which is burdensome in itself. If the BVI were to be classified as a "large" employer, our group health care costs would go up another 40-50 percent.
To avoid this increase, we will make sure we don't fall into the "large" employer category by placing limits on the number of hours an employee can work, which hurts the employee and the entire economy. Also, classifying full time as 30 hours per week does not make sense.
Either changing the formula for determining a large employer or increasing the full-time employee criteria to 35 or 40 hours, which is the norm, would be very helpful to our industry.
No well-run business will tolerate double digit cost increases. Any time a cost gets out of line, changes have to be made to offset the increases, and these changes will not be good for employees. I think the Affordable Care Act is particularly burdensome on the restaurant industry, which is a low margin industry. Our legislators need to listen to us and make some changes to the law so that it is fair for everyone.
Clearly the BVI is not the only New Hampshire company feeling this burden. Our beautiful state thrives on tourism, and hospitality is the backbone of our economy. With so many Granite Staters' incomes tied to the restaurant and lodging industries, it breaks my heart that the Affordable Care Act as it is now structured will force my family's business to cut back hours for our employees (and friends). I urge all employers who face this unfair burden to contact their elected officials in Congress and ask for immediate relief for the sake of business and their hard-working staff.
Andrea Carnevale is vice president of the Bedford Village Inn.