Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 14 2013

How Obamacare Could Impact Hoteliers

By David McMillin

obamacare and hotels

The Affordable Care Act has been making plenty of headlines recently. From the official opening of the federal and state insurance exchanges on October 1 to the continuing shutdown of the federal government, individuals and business owners have given the law mixed reviews. Now, one key sector of the meetings industry is weighing in on a specific piece of the legislation.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association is asking Congress to review the definition of full-time employment under Obamacare. Currently, the definition stands at 30 hours per week. However, the AHLA believes that definition is too low and could put stress on the current business models of many hotels.

“Increasing the healthcare law’s current definition of full-time status would be a win-win for hard-working Americans and their employers and would benefit our entire economy,” Katherine Lugar, President and CEO, AHLA, says. “Employees would have the ability to work more hours and increase their take-home pay. Employers would be able to provide more generous health coverage - without prohibitive premium costs - to full-time employees, and lower-income employees would have greater access to affordable coverage options.”

SEE ALSO: Shutdown Shuts Down Key Government Meeting

Business Have Time to Sort Out the Impact of Obamacare

While the law requires individuals to have health insurance by the beginning of 2014, lawmakers have delayed the requirement for businesses until 2015. With one year to sort out the potential impact, the AHLA hopes to convince Congress to reconsider what it means to be a full-time employee.

So what could happen if the full-time threshold remains at 30 hours? A statement from the AHLA suggests that it could lead to “disruptions in the workforce” and the inability to “allow employees to maintain flexible work schedules.”

Reactions from other business owners have varied. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, publicly announced that the law would have no impact on worker benefits or worker hours. On the flip side, grocery chain Trader Joe’s announced it would stop offering healthcare benefits to part-time employees.

A First-Hand Hotelier Story

While the AHLA points to the potential for a negative impact, a recent article by Michael Lindenberger at Dallas News, Chris Russell, CEO of Dallas-based Pillar Hotels and Resorts, offers a very different perspective. Russell indicated that he does not expect to make many changes to their hiring or the hours that Pillar employees work.

“You can’t manage your business around healthcare,” Russell said in the interview. “In the hospitality business, the thing that determines whether you can hire more people is whether you fill more rooms. That’s what we focus on.”

Regardless of whether lawmakers consider changes to the definition of full-time work, they need to consider something very important immediately: reopening the federal government.

Curious how the law could impact your organization? Click here for answers to frequently answered questions at NPR.

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