Restaurant Chain Considering End Run Around Health Law

Darden Restaurants, whose companies include Olive Garden, is considering adding more part-time workers to avoid the insurance coverage mandate in the health law.

Politico Pro: Darden Tests Part-Timers To Avoid ACA
Warning of the looming cost of the Affordable Care Act, Darden Restaurants -- the parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse -- is experimenting with the use of more part-time workers to ease the sting of the law. The catch: They have to find out if they can shift people to part-time hours without forcing customers to suffer agonizingly long waits for their mezzaluna ravioli or seafood-stuffed flounder. But if the restaurant chain likes what it sees in the test -- and expands the use of part-timers throughout the country -- the law's critics are bound to cite Darden as proof that the health care law is forcing low-wage workers to lose hours and benefits (Cheney, 10/9).

The Associated Press: To Limit Health Care Costs, Olive Garden Parent Tests Keeping More Workers On Part-Time Status
Under the new health care law, companies with 50 or more workers could be hit with fines if they do not provide basic coverage for full-time workers and their dependents. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, those penalties and requirements could significantly boost labor costs for some companies, particularly in low-wage industries such as retail and hospitality, where most jobs don't come with health benefits. Darden, which operates more than 2,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, employs about 180,000 people. The company says about 75 percent of its employees are currently part-timers (Choi, 10/9).

In other news, it's open season and workers are choosing plans --

Reuters: What To Expect When You Choose A Health Plan
Make way for open enrollment season, the time of year when those wordy benefits packages stuff your inboxes. Once again, workers face higher health care costs, but what else can employees expect from insurance plans? Tracy Watts, a partner with benefits giant Mercer, explains what's new for employees in 2013, including the impact of healthcare reform. ... While the main provisions of the new law won't go into effect until 2014, we've already seen companies expand coverage for dependents (Young, 10/9).

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