By Michael Scotto
Craig Yunker's 6000 acre Western New York farm grows a variety of crops. But come next year, he fears that he may have to scale things back and eliminate some workers. That's because he says the Affordable Care Act may make doing business too expensive.
Yunker said, "We're concerned that we will have to comply and it will double our cost of health care."
Starting next year, the President's health care law will require businesses with 50 or more full time employees to offer health insurance or face a fine of $2,000 per employee, minus the first 30 employees.
Farmers say determining how many full time workers they have is a tricky process, since seasonal workers can swell employment rolls during certain times of the year.
Yunker says his farm employs 40 full time workers, but that number grows well above 50 when seasonal employees are factored in.
"We were about 68 or 70 employees and in order to get under the 50 employee threshold, we think we will have to lay off about 20 people," Yunker said.
The IRS, which is drafting the confusing and complex rules, declined to comment on them. But according to people familiar with the regulations, farms will have to offer insurance if they have 50 or more employees, including seasonal ones, working 30 hours a week for more than 120 days.
Republicans say this is yet another reason why the law must be scaled back.
"I think we can redefine small businesses as something other than 50 employees. I'd like to see 250 so that Obamacare wouldn't apply to someone with less than 250 employees," Representative Chris Collins said.
But according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the vast majority of farmers likely won't have to offer insurance. And the Department of Health and Human Services says 96 percent of all businesses will be exempt from the law.