The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


FMI, Western Growers comment on Obamacare ruling

The Food Marketing Institute said in a statement to its members today that it will help members comply with the health care reform law, while Western Growers said it would continue its plans, but noted that undocumented workers are not covered under the law.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the 2011 health care reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Act (sometimes called PPACA or ACA).
Leslie Sarasin

Leslie Sarasin
FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin said that the act includes “a multitude” of reporting requirements and mandates with which food retailers and wholesalers will have to comply.

“As employers, food retailers will need to follow government agencies’ yet-to-be-released criteria for determining which employees are required to be offered health coverage under PPACA and whether that employer-offered coverage, as required under the new law, is deemed ‘affordable’ and passes the ‘minimal value’ requirements in the statute,” Sarasin said.

“Within the coming 18 months, federal agencies must issue new regulations covering all of these issues and more, and each company across the industry will be forced to decide how best to adjust its health coverage and work schedules, to comply with the new law – or whether to simply withdraw from offering coverage and pay any penalties that may be required.”

Sarasin also noted that the PPACA contains provisions that specifically impact the grocery industry.

One is a restaurant menu-labeling requirement that the Food and Drug Administration wants to extend to certain food sales within grocery stores. FMI maintains that the law was not intended to cover grocery stores.

A second provision requires that customers present a doctor’s prescription before being allowed to use a Flexible Spending Account debit card to purchase over-the-counter medicines at their local food stores, while continuing to allow the use of FSA debit cards to purchase eligible items that are not medicines

“We will continue to work with Congress and the administration to address these concerns as soon as possible,” Sarasin said.
Tom Nassif

Tom Nassif
Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif, who represents the Arizona and California producers who grow half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, said Thursday that his group was “prepared for today’s ruling, although I was surprised that the Supreme Court ruled the individual mandate was constitutional under the taxing powers of government.”

Noting that Western Growers provides employee health benefits plans to its members and their employees, Nassif said, “These mini-med plans will continue to exist despite the impact of the ACA because Western Growers Assurance Trust received a waiver that remains effective until 2014. Thereafter, all health benefits plans offered by Western Growers Assurance Trust will comply with the ACA’s insurance market reforms.”

Nassif said that as the ACA is implemented, Western Growers will work with federal regulators “to acknowledge the unique needs of ag employers and workers, including those improperly documented individuals for whom the ACA has no provisions.”

“Congress and the Administration need to finish the work of the act by making changes that truly recognize the legitimate healthcare needs of this population,” Nassif said. “We began many of those discussions in the last two years and will pursue them with greater urgency now.”