America Outdoors Association
America Outdoors Association

June 18, 2013

America Outdoors Association Bulletin

Employers Required to Notify Employees of Health Care Exchanges & Health Care Options Beginning October 1, 2013

Royal Gorge on the Arkansas Shutdown by Damage from Fires

FLREA Hearing Shows House Committee Is Serious about Amending and Reauthorizing FLREA

Use 2012 Financials to Get a Report of Your Company’s Performance Compared to Industry Averages

Employers Required to Notify Employees of Health Care Exchanges and Health Care Options Beginning October 1, 2013

AOA will soon send out a whitepaper outlining the complex requirements and measure that need to be taken into account when complying with the Affordable Care Act. The whitepaper was prepared by a certified employee benefits counselor and will help company’s determine their compliance requirements. Companies whose FTE census exceeds 50 when accounting for the hours of part-time and seasonal workers should be preparing now.

Some consultants are advising their clients to pay the penalty instead of buying health insurance if they have more than 50 FTE’s. Sending their employees to the exchanges for subsidized coverage will yield better coverage and less expense to the employer, according to some advisors. Subsidies are available to approximately 7 million tax filing households earning up to $94,000 and are paid upfront to enable the purchase of the health insurance.  After some initial filing of qualifications for the subsidy, the IRS will audit qualifications of those receiving subsidies after they have received the subsidy.  

Notice to Inform Employees of Coverage Options

The temporary guidance states that employers who are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are required to provide the notice beginning Oct. 1, 2013 to new employees within 14 days of an employee’s start date. The notice must also be provided to all existing employees no later than Oct. 1, 2013.

This requirement applies to all employees regardless of their eligibility for or enrollment in the medical plan. It’s also required if the employer doesn’t offer a health plan.  The guidance provides various alternatives for delivering the notice.

Model language that may be used to satisfy the notice requirement is also included in the guidance.  Two versions are provided based on the availability of an employer-sponsored health plan.
•    For employers NOT offering a health plan:
•    For employers offering a health plan:

Employers are required to maintain records pertain to its health plan and employee eligibility. Although the details of reporting have yet to be finalized, in general, employers will have to file an annual return beginning in 2015, which contains at least the following information:
(A)    the name, date, and employer identification number of the employer,
(B)    a certification as to whether the employer offers to its full-time employees (and their dependents) the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan, if the employer certifies that the employer did offer to its full-time employees (and their dependents) the opportunity to so enroll—
(i)     the length of any waiting period with respect to such coverage,
(ii)    the months during the calendar year for which coverage under the plan was available,
(iii)    the monthly premium for the lowest cost option in each of the enrollment categories under the plan, and
(iv)    the employer share of the total allowed costs of benefits provided under the plan,
(D)    the number of full-time employees for each month during the calendar year, the name, address, and TIN of each full-time employee during the calendar year and the months (if any) during which such employee (and any dependents) were covered under any such health benefits plans.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for compliance with the employer shared responsibility mandate. Employers will need to carefully analyze their employee populations and staffing needs and then weigh the financial and employee morale implications of providing coverage or risking liability for penalties.

First, employers should determine whether they qualify as a large employer (and if compliance can be delayed by using an abbreviated determination period in 2013).  A large employer will then need to set measurement, administrative and stability periods based on its current plan year. Employers should also develop a system for tracking employee hours coordinating with payroll systems as necessary and possibly limit employee hours.  Plan design and contribution structures may also need to be altered to minimize liability.

Royal Gorge on the Arkansas Shutdown by Damage from Fires

After last year’s drought the last thing Arkansas River outfitters running the Royal Gorge needed was an early season fire that was so severe it damaged the tram in the gorge and left cables hanging in the river.  The river is shut down until the cables can be secured. Pictures show the famous tram teetering on the edge of the Gorge. Fortunately, other sections of the Arkansas are open for boating but one outfitter noted many cancellations had been received. gondola

Rob White from Arkansas Headwater Recreation sent the following note to interested parties.

The firm confirmed that both the Aerial Tram and the Incline Railway received extensive damage during the fire.

This firm also informed the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park that these damaged facilities/cables need to be secured in place with cables tied into existing dead weight anchors to prevent them from falling into the Royal Gorge.  It is anticipated that this process (securing the damaged facilities/cables) will take at least a week.

Employees of Alpine Cable & Construction, Inc. plan to start work securing the damaged facilities/cables on Tuesday (06.18.13).

Once all the damaged facilities/cables are secured, AHRA River Rangers, under the guidance of Alpine Cable & Construction, Inc., will work with employees from the Royal Gorge Route Railroad to remove cables from the Arkansas River so that the Royal Gorge can be opened once again to boating.  It is unknown how long this process will take, but the work will be completed as soon as possible.

As previously noted, due to public safety concerns, the Royal Gorge Section of the Arkansas River will remain closed to boating until this operation can be completed.

FLREA Hearing Shows House Committee Is Serious about Amending and Reauthorizing FLREA

A hearing today (June 18th) featured agency witnesses and critics of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which focused mostly on the efficiency of the use of fees.  Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop, of the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation conducted the hearing. Two witnesses recommended doing away with some recreation fees, Andy Stahl, Executive Director of the Forest Service Employees Ethics, and Kitty Benzar both argued that public lands should be available at no charge except for certain developed facilities like campgrounds.  Randal O’Toole from the Cato Institute argued in favor of recreation fees for dispersed recreation and fees based on fair market value.  Agency witnesses spoke in favor or retaining the fees.  Director of the North Carolina Department of Parks and Wildlife said fees were important to the operation of state parks, but appealed for funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Chairman Bishop asked Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the Forest Service, who made the decision on where to spend fee money.  She replied the line officers and field staff made the decision. Chairman Bishop also questioned the witnesses about the need for audits, which was generally supported by non-agency witnesses.  Most witnesses agreed that the Recreation Fee Resource Advisory Committees were a waste of time. AOA has recommended replacing RAC’s with more accountability and simple public meetings in the Forests to explain the use of fees and projected uses for the coming season.

Representative DeFazio questioned Pamela Haze Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior about what he called exorbitant fees charged to Cycle Oregon by the BLM for a small portion of their annual event. He suggested legislative language to remedy the fee burden to non profits.

AOA’s Executive Director previously testified on the need to reauthorize FLREA with amendments.

Use 2012 Financials to Get a Report of Your Company’s Performance Compared to Industry Averages

America Outdoors Association has once again partnered with Industry Insights to offer members an opportunity to benchmark their revenue and expenses against overall industry averages. The cost to participate and receive and custom report for your company is $200. This is one of AOA’s most powerful benefits to help you grow revenues and reduce costs. Last year’s report was well received by participants who unanimously urged AOA to repeat the project again next year.

Reports will be available this fall but you will need to have your 2012 financial data input or have Industry Insights input it for you by the end of September. The form has been mailed to each member fax it to AOA at 865-558-3598 with your payment information. Click to access the form on the AOA website. 

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