Capitol Hill

A potential injustice

Now that health care reform has become law, many roofing professionals need to begin preparing to provide health care benefits to their employees or pay a penalty. However, if not for a last-minute change to the legislation advocated successfully by NRCA, the law's requirements would have applied to many more roofing professionals because the construction industry largely would have been excluded from a key small-business exemption in the legislation.

The amendment

Beginning in 2014, the health care reform law requires employers to pay a $2,000 penalty per employee if they do not provide government-approved health care benefits to their workers. However, recognizing that small businesses have greater difficulty affording health insurance than large businesses, early drafts of the legislation exempted businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees.

However, an amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) was added that would have set the small-business exemption threshold at fewer than five employees (and payroll expenses of at least $250,000) only for businesses in the construction industry. Therefore, all but the smallest construction employers would have been excluded from the bill's small-business exemption. Construction was the only industry singled out with no congressional debate or hearings.