S.A. restaurant owners say 'Obamacare' comes with side of hardship
SAN ANTONIO -- It will bring much-needed health care to 30 million more Americans, and the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," goes into full effect in 2014.
But local restaurants say it may cost jobs.
At a local Jim's Restaurnat, Karen Marcil makes sure the eggs are cooked to order for customers at table 6. But it’s not just food that Marcil provides -- It’s service with a smile, for nearly 32 years.
“Every day’s different. My customers are great. I have lots of regulars who ask for me,” Marcil said.
So what if instead of being served by a friendly waitress, your favorite omelet or cup of coffee was delivered cafeteria-style? Or from a vending machine? On an electronic menu?
It may be coming as local restaurants prepare to pay for mandated health care for employees starting in 2014.
“Many of us are left out there hanging, so to speak, in a holding pattern, because we don’t know,” said Jimmy Hasslocher, the owner of Jim’s Restaurants.
His local chain has 1100 employees, which is enough to trigger mandatory health insurance for full-time employees -- one of the rules in the Affordable Care Act.
Hasslocher said there’s a slim profit margin in food sales, so something’s going to have to give. And it just may be his full-time employees.
Under the Affordable Care Act, employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week do not qualify for a company’s mandated health care.
And that thought is crossing the minds of business owners across Texas.
“Our priority is to keep open, keep as many jobs as we can, and impact our employees’ lives as little as we can,” said Allen Tharp, the owner of several Olde England's Lion and Rose British Restaurant and Pubs across San Antonio.
Tharp is holding monthly meetings with his managers and accountants. "Obamacare" is a serious threat to his business, Tharp said.
Once the law is fully implemented, one full-time employee who isn’t covered by a company health plan can lead to federal fines approaching $2 million dollars.
His staff is looking at strategies to keep their restaurants’ doors open. Making everyone a part-time employee looks enticing, but the pubs’ wait staff, bus boys and bartenders worry that fewer hours means fewer tables and fewer tips.
“And I need that. So I guess my main concern would be paying rents, paying for food, groceries, gasoline, all of that,” Jane Clare Vosteen said.
Vosteen is a college graduate who's waiting tables until she establishes a career. At the age of 23, she is still covered under her parents’ health insurance plan, also thanks to "Obamacare."