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Employer mandate killed in House healthcare bill

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Restaurateurs who employ at least 50 people would no longer be required to provide full timers with health insurance if the reform bill passed today in the House of Representatives is also approved by the Senate.

Instead, the measure would encourage universal coverage by penalizing individuals who let their policies lapse for at least 63 days. Employers would not be charged or fined for withholding coverage.

Restaurateurs and other employers who provide healthcare insurance might also get a break on the cost. The bill allows states to exempt insurers from guaranteeing certain types of coverage, including for maternity care or mental illness. The provision is intended to bring down the cost of premiums.

The bill essentially eliminates several aspects of the Affordable Care Act that were expensive and problematic for restaurants. But not every concern of the industry is addressed.

“This vote is an important first step in improving our health care system,” Cicely Simpson, EVP of policy and government for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Congress on further legislative actions to fix ongoing issues with the employer mandate. The work to pass repeal of the 30-hour rule, streamline employer reporting requirements, and repeal the seasonal worker definition will still need the attention of Congress to help alleviate the strain on employers in the restaurant industry.”

In addition, the bill’s fate remains uncertain. Most pundits give the measure little chance of surviving a vote in the Senate, even though that chamber is also controlled by Republicans.

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