Steven Hermann has settled back into his normal routine as vice president of Paul’s Supermarkets in the lake area. But a week ago on Wednesday, Oct. 9, he was sitting before some of the most powerful members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hermann, who’s also the CEO of Supermarket Solutions, was called to Washington, D.C., on behalf of the National Grocers Association to testify before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology about the impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act (also known as ObamaCare) on small businesses. More specifically, he was there to share his thoughts on the law’s definition of a full-time employee its effect on small businesses.
Hermann says he isn’t opposed to ObamaCare, but is concerned that the proposed 30-hour rule to qualify for full time employment status will harm small businesses such as Paul’s Supermarkets.
“We are facing a challenge in our workforce unlike any we have seen before,” he said in his testimony. “I am fearful that the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act will hurt our employees and undermine our values as a family owned small business. Under the ACA, the definition of full time employee has created new barriers for our industry where working an average of 30 hours per week is simply not considered full time.”
The ACA created new hurdles for businesses by greatly expanding the number of employees eligible for health plans by defining a full-time employee as an employee who has averaged at least 30 hours of service per week over the course of a month, Hermann explained.
Hermann continued: “This new definition of full-time under the law will force small businesses to re-think how they hire and schedule part-time employees. Where an employer may have previously hired a new part-time employee with the expectation that they would work 33-35 hours per week, that employee will now be brought on knowing they are a part-time employee and their work week will be limited to less than 30 hours per week. Employers are likely to hire fewer employees, especially full-time employees, learning to do more with fewer workers in order to control costs.”
Unfortunately, he said, many businesses may now be unable to provide part-time associates with the hours they need.
Hermann urged Congress to pass legislation that amends the “unrealistic” definition of a full-time employee…so that businesses can focus on continuing to be an employer of choice in the communities they serve.
Going to Washington
Paul’s Supermarkets is a member of the National Grocers Association, which has an office in Washington, D.C., and which represents independent grocers nationwide. Greg Ferrara, vice president of governmental affairs for NGA, contacted Hermann about possibly testifying on behalf of NGA.
Page 2 of 3 - Hermann was interviewed by phone on Sept. 27 and on Sept. 30 he was invited to the nation’s capital. A flight was booked on his behalf and he flew to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning, Oct. 8.
NGA lobbyists and attorneys prepped Hermann on the protocol. An attorney for NGA has read the ACA many times to become an expert, and provided Hermann with additional insight.
On Wednesday, Oct. 9, Hermann was whisked to the Rayburn Building where the House of Representatives meets. On the way, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, who sits on the Subcommittee on Health and Technology, called out to Hermann in the hallway where they visited briefly.
“They were great,” Hermann said of Luetkemeyer’s office. “One of his assistants called to help coordinate and accommodate my testimony.”
Now in the subcommittee hearing room, Hermann said “it was a bigger deal than I expected.” C-Span 3 was in the room, and he sat in front of a microphone with a timer nearby. He was told he would have five minutes to speak, and committee members had five minutes for questions.
In the middle of Hermann’s testimony, a loud alarm-type bell went off to signify House members were needed on the House Floor to vote on the measure to fund the families of the recently killed soldiers in Afghanistan. The panel hustled onto a tram that took them to the Capitol building. Forty-five minutes later, some of the committee members returned and the hearing continued.
“The break gave me a chance to step outside the hearing room, and there was other media like the Washington Business Journal waiting to ask questions,” he said.
The 30-hour issue was the focus of his comments.
“We’re going to do our best to take care of our employees because they’re like family to us. But we have to look at moving forward and hiring people. But we have to know if we’re going to be able to hire 30-hour employees as it relates to the ACA,” he explained. Hermann said it is not fiscally affordable for Paul’s Supermarkets ― and other small businesses ― to include 30-hour employees on in health insurance program.
Paul’s insurance program already meets ACA guidelines.
“That being said, the ACA has not made health care affordable for us, and now they want us to add more to our health care program,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, we have to use two words and they are ‘tough choices.’ We may not like those ‘touch choices’ but we may have to find a way to be profitable and that means to pay your bills and provide jobs to the community.”
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