Preparing for the Affordable Care ActThe long and tortuous path to enacting and implementing President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, has taken yet another twist. Recently, the Obama administration conceded that it was not prepared to implement one of the signature elements of ACA, the so-called employer mandate. This has reignited the firestorm of debate over the law and how it will be administered.

Lost in the furor is what this means for bakers, other businesses and consumers of healthcare services. The American Bakers Association (ABA) has conducted or facilitated almost a dozen informational sessions to help bakers make critically important decisions on how to implement the ACA in their companies. Having sat in on a number of these sessions, I realized that the questions have become ever more complex and convoluted, while the answers seem to slip away into the atmosphere. The decision to delay enforcement of the employer mandate for a year does provide the luxury of more time. Unfortunately, answers to the multitude of questions raised by the act are not likely to be clearer or more pleasant with which to manage.

It’s clear that another year will allow bakers and other businesses to appeal to lawmakers and regulators for more common sense and a way to wade through more than 3,900 pages of prescriptive regulations.

It’s also crystal clear that it’s essential that bakers, suppliers and other industry-related businesses take advantage of the additional year to learn all they can about the new law and take steps to mitigate its impact. At the ABA Human Resources Conference in July, a large portion of the meeting was devoted to lobbying Congress and learning about the impact of the ACA.

While I always try to be positive and look on the bright side of things, I do believe it would be foolish to ignore reality and advocate that the inexorable movement toward implementing the ACA can be stopped. The political facts are very stark: Even if the Republicans were to gain control of the U.S. Senate in the 2014 midterm election, they will not have the necessary 60 votes to join with the House to repeal the ACA. If Congress should somehow prevail in passing a repeal bill, there is no way the president will walk away from his single landmark achievement.

In the interim, the ABA and other business groups will continue to push for responsible changes to healthcare and focus on reducing costs, expanding coverage options and tackling runaway litigation costs. 

Robb MacKie is the president and CEO of the American Bakers Association (ABA) and a chief advocate and spokesperson for the $102-billion wholesale baking industry. A recognized leader in the Washington business community, MacKie serves as a board member of the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100. He also participates on the Kansas State University’s Grain Science Advisory Committee.