Stressing the unique characteristics of the restaurant industry, a National Restaurant Association (NRA) board member and restaurant industry veteran told members of Congress that the 2010 health-care law poses costly challenges for employers and, without modifications, may sacrifice jobs.

Tom Boucher, an independent restaurateur and CEO and owner of Great New Hampshire Restaurants, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health hearing examining the law’s impact on jobs.

“The National Restaurant Association has worked to constructively shape the implementing regulations of the health care law since its enactment,” Boucher said. “Nevertheless, there are limits to what can be achieved through the regulatory process alone. Changes in the law are needed, given the challenges employers such as restaurant and foodservice operators face in implementing it.”

The NRA has worked for more than two years to highlight the restaurant industry’s challenges in complying with the law, filing volumes of comments with regulatory agencies to get the answers restaurant operators need and to ensure they have maximum flexibility as the rules are written.

In his remarks on behalf of the Association, Boucher pointed to several requirements that are problematic for the industry, which is predominantly comprised of small businesses, a young and highly mobile workforce, and low profit margins.

“Broader transition relief is needed for employers attempting to comply with the law in good faith, as time is short to make the significant changes required by the law,” Boucher said. “The duplicative automatic enrollment provision should be eliminated, as it could unnecessarily confuse and financially harm employees.”

In addition, the Association has said the law should more accurately reflect the general business practice of 40 hours a week as full-time employment.

The applicable large employer determination over-reaches to include more small businesses than it should through the full-time equivalent definition, the NRA says.

Boucher added, “The National Restaurant Association looks forward to working with this Committee and all of Congress on these and other important issues to improve health care for our employees without sacrificing their jobs in the process. We also continue to actively participate in the regulatory process to ensure the implementing rules consider our industry’s perspective.”

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