Monday, July 1, 2013

Opinion: Health Reform and Lower Hours for Employees

Last week the local airwaves carried the decision of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to limit the hours of Deseret Industries (D.I.) part-time employees to 29 hours a week. This was in response to potential employer penalties enacted in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Many derided the decision as cold and calculated.
Through miscommunication and lack of education, the mountain of confusion associated with the Affordable Care Act continues to grow. It is my opinion that last week’s initial gut reaction isn’t warranted and like the ACA or not, learning about the details of the ACA could help clarify the decision of the LDS church. Clarity with this issue will be paramount as other businesses make similar decisions this coming year.
Every business owner will agree, “Without Margin there is no Mission.” Deseret Industries was formed in 1936 in response to the Great Depression. Their mission was to “to help Church members help themselves.” From the time of its creation, it has spread its wings and now provides invaluable training to both LDS Church members and non-members alike. Their value can also be seen on a daily basis through the affordable goods provided to those in greatest need.
Those with a sincere conscious know the LDS Church desires continual success for both Deseret Industries and each of its employees. All businesses that flourish have a deep investment in maintaining their mission and vision. This service-oriented Church-owned company has not maintained continual growth for more than 75 years by accident. Logic and reason can be found behind every decision made by the D.I.
As a physician, I have cared for quite a few D.I. employees. Through each of these interactions one thing has been clear; they were employed by a company who treated them well and gave them a chance no one else would, whatever their circumstance.
D.I. provided each of them an opportunity to establish a life with more economic independence and a feeling of self-worth. We appropriately don’t have access to their accounting records and therefore are unaware of the financial sustainability of this program with the implementation of the new healthcare law.
At this very moment, many companies struggle with similar decisions and may be guided into the wrong decision if they are fearful of the uneducated and misguided rancor from employees or media. Depending on the number of employees, they will may ask the some of the following questions:
  • What is different if I have 1-49 employees versus 50 or more employees?
  • Prior to this year, I have been unable to afford health insurance for my employees, how can I now financially justify providing health insurance?
  • What are the financial penalty implications for me as a business owner?
  • If I choose not to provide health insurance, what penalties will I face and what are the other non-cost implications of the ACA?
  • Do I need to cut down my workforce and/or limit hours to avoid a penalty to maintain my business as the Church chose?
  • What alternatives are available to companies who choose not to provide health insurance?
  • I already provide health insurance, what are the benefits of disbanding my current plan and sending my employees to the health exchange and how do I do this?
  • How do I educate my employees on these decisions I am making so they understand, and then provide them assistance in making wise choices around their health insurance purchasing?
  • I already provide health insurance, is there a better option for me and my employees?
  • If I offer an employee only plan, will I be harming the families of my employees by preventing them the opportunity to take advantage of available subsidies?
  • Do part-time employees count towards the 50 employee number and what is part-time?
  • As a large business, I have to provide “Affordable insurance”, how do I figure out what “affordable health insurance” is?
  • What are the benefits of sending my employees to the health exchange?
  • Are there ways to use an HRA while taking the ACA penalties to cut my costs and at the same time providing my employees with health insurance?
These are only a select few of the many questions every business owner will ask in the coming months. The complexity of the Affordable Care Act should never be taken lightly. I have absolute faith the LDS Church seriously deliberated the decision to cut down the hours of their part-time employees. This decision was the best opportunity to continue the mission of Deseret Industries.
The Affordable Care Act will provide options for health care to those who have not been able to afford health insurance in the past. I invite everyone to take a deeper look into this new law. Like it or not, it is the law!
Through education, we will clearly understand how to best navigate the ACA and help our employees, family and friends. Do not settle for opinions of those seeking their best interest and may not have your best interest in mind. Seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the ACA and how it will affect you, your employees and your business.
If you want answers to these and any other questions you have, we at Arches Health Plan would love to talk and share answers with you so you can make your Best decision. Remember there are Good Decisions, Better Decisions and Best Decisions! Don’t settle for a Good Decision when a Better or even a Best Decision is available!
We believe we are the non-profit, member-oriented and governed organization to educate you in an unbiased manner. If we are your Best answer great, if there is a Better answer, great. If you are afraid of what is coming, we need to talk. Many we have talked with have found answers that helped alleviate their fears to one degree or another.
When you have questions about health insurance or health reform, visit our website at, email us at or call us at 801-312-9860 to set up a meeting to discuss your options further.

Douglas Roland Smith, M.D.
Family Medicine/Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine
Chief Medical Officer – Arches Health Plan


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