Obamacare could lead Grand Strand businesses to cut back seasonal staff

On Wednesday, members of the Grand Strand business community came together at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for a series of workshops to learn how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as 'Obamacare,' will affect them.

The people leading Wednesday's workshops believe this law may have more of an effect on our area, because of the large number of tourism businesses here.

Many businesses along the Grand Strand have seasonal or temporary employees during the summer months, including Tsunami Surf Shop, which has locations throughout South and North Carolina.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer healthcare coverage to their workers if they have more than 50 employees or more. It also redefines what a full-time employee is, which, under the act, is someone who works 30 hours per week.

Yvette Caulfield, who is the manager of human resources at Tsunami Surf Shop, told WPDE NewsChannel 15 how the Act could affect their stores.

"We will have to control the shifts. We will have to hire them less than 30 hours now, because otherwise, we will have to pay insurance, which will cost quite a bit to the employer," Caufield said.

If businesses like Tsunami Surf Shop choose not to cover their employees, they will be assessed a $2,000 penalty for each employee. Under the Act, 30 employees are discounted from the penalty.

To avoid penalties and future problems, one local employee benefit specialist advises employers to come up with a strategy now, even though employers have until January 1, 2015 before the mandate kicks.

"We pretty much know it's going to happen. We have the basic concrete rules in place, enough to develop a strategy and move forward, and if they are not doing that now and not meeting their consultant and putting plans in place and preparing themselves for 2015, then they are behind the ball and going to be in trouble," said Todd Palmer, president of Palmer Consultants in Myrtle Beach.

Just last week, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives called, "The Forty is Full," which seeks to change the Affordable Care Act's definition of full-time to 40-hours per week.