Flooring industry weighs in on Affordable Care Act

January 16, 2017

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 11.06.42 AMImplemented in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare,” has changed the ways U.S. citizens receive healthcare. While there have been countless debates on its positives and negatives, there is one thing for certain—the ACA has transformed the way we talk about and partake in healthcare.

Flooring retailers large and small are feeling the effects of the ACA differently. Most dealers contacted by FCNews said it has negatively impacted their employees. “I can’t say Obamacare has influenced our business,” said Adam Joss, owner of The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md. “But it certainly has impacted our employees and the benefits they receive. They are not benefiting. Their deductibles and premiums are higher.”

Houston-based Roberts Carpet & Fine Floors reports having a similar experience. “It’s been very hard on my staff,” said owner Sam Roberts, who oversees 10 stores. “While we pay the large majority of our employees’ share they are still affected significantly. The limits have gone up on doctor visits, prescription medicine and the like.”

At the same time, Roberts could not say for sure if the ACA is the main cause for the significant rise in healthcare. “It’s not so much the ACA but the cost of healthcare,” he explained. “Anything that will bring the cost of healthcare down for my employees is important to me.”

For Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor, which operates two locations in Alabama, the ACA has had little impact on the company, according to Ted Gregerson, president and owner. At the same time, he does not believe the company’s employees have really benefited from the ACA, either. Reason being: “We provide health insurance for all our employees.”

Murray Floor & Window Coverings, a small business in Billings, Mont., is similarly unaffected by the ACA. “We’re small so we don’t have to provide any [insurance],” said Kevin Murray, owner. “However, I know that on a personal basis my rates have skyrocketed.”

JK Carpets in Locust Grove, Va., is in the same boat. “We only have two employees so we’re not obligated to provide insurance,” said Pam Kulick, owner. “All of my employees have their own insurance.”

But like Murray, Kulick feels the effects personally. “It just costs a lot and our options are very limited,” she explained. “We can only choose one insurance company because there’s only one in our area.”

More broadly, Kulick fears JK Carpet’s customer base might also be impacted, given the fact that the store operates in an area where there’s a community of retirees on fixed incomes. “With the rising cost of everything it might affect their spending,” she said.

However, not all small businesses are exempt from the ACA’s requirements. “From a small business point of view the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor caring,” Tim Schoolfield, owner of Country Side Carpets in O’Fallon, Mo., said. “Administratively there’s confusion across the board with respect to what these regulations mean. We used to provide 100% health insurance, but because of the increasing cost [the employees] now pay $50 as opposed to $0.”

For other dealers such as Kemp’s Dalton West Flooring, which services markets in Atlanta, the impact of ACA has been felt more externally than internally. This applies to many of his customers who happen to be middle-class homeowners. “These families normally make a good living but most do not have a big disposable income or money left over after the bills are paid,” said Chris Kemp, owner. “The middle class is facing the worst side effects of the ACA. They are not poor enough for any help on insurance cost and yet not wealthy enough to disregard any burdens of high cost of insurance or increased taxation. That being said, I think fewer of my potential customers are coming through my doors to purchase flooring because of the affects of [the] ACA.”

With the election of a new president, most retailers hope new legislation is on the way. In the meantime, and with little control over the ACA, employers are taking into account employee struggles when choosing different healthcare plans.

The Vertical Connection Carpet One, for instance, is doing what it can to help its employees. “We have to be thoughtful about the cost of healthcare,” Joss explained. “We’ve had to look at different plans and weigh those options.”


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