Franchise Update Magazine Issue II, 2013 - Page 18

Grow Market Lead Anatomy of a Brand By Jeff Bevis Tackling Healthcare Reform I FirstLight HomeCare acts to ensure system health f you follow the news, you’ve no doubt heard a lot about the impending rules of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which became law on March 23, 2010. At the extremes, we’ve all heard the strong reactions from some franchisees saying the added costs from this act will put them out of business, that they will cut pay, or are unsure how to manage employees to offset the onerous costs the legislation will impose. More commonly in the home care industry, we hear about franchisees concerned about head counts rising above the 50-employee limit, or worried they’ll be forced to cut back on hours to keep employees at parttime status. Make no mistake, though: the Affordable Care Act does carry a great deal of significance for franchising, and it will affect the cost of doing business for franchisees across all concepts. Our company, FirstLight HomeCare, is a young, rapidly growing, non-medical in-home care concept in a critical stage of growth. We realized right away that, if not handled properly, the ACA could slow our momentum and create uncertainty for franchisees trying to manage their operating costs. Addressing the impact of this legislation head-on in a proactive and positive way has become a top priority for FirstLight at the corporate level and throughout the system. As such, we are engaging in a variety of activities to prepare our franchisees and help them find innovative solutions to ease the burden. Although we realize there 16 Franchiseupdate Iss u e II, 2 0 1 3 continue to be legislative challenges to the act’s long-term implementation, we see the reality of current requirements and do not subscribe to the “This is going to put me out of business” philosophy that some in our industry are latching onto. Starting at the top Like many other franchise companies, we had our eyes on President Obama’s healthcare legislation from the very early stages. Perhaps unlike others, we also started brainstorming ways we could assist our franchisees in navigating through new requirements, should they pass—and we immediately began an ongoing series of efforts at the corporate level to thoroughly educate ourselves on the legislation, lessons we have been filtering down to our franchise owners. At the corporate level, we have immersed ourselves in every aspect of educational sessions and offerings from the IFA, including attending the Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., with one of our top franchisees last fall to help maintain the “owner perspective,” as well as attending more sessions at the recent IFA Annual Convention. We have also enlisted healthcare benefit expertise through the IFA and from Ernst & Young to ensure we are accounting for all aspects and potential impacts of the new requirements in our preliminary efforts. We continue to spend a good amount of time at our corporate offices in Cincinnati researching the legislation and educating our franchisees. We honed in on the tax credits available to franchisees under the ACA to better gauge the employer net expense for implementation, and reached out to our owners to help them understand what conditions they would have to meet to be eligible. As we amassed information, we started holding a series of system-wide calls and recorded webinars for our franchisees to share the latest updates on the ACA requirements, bringing in guest experts to provide additional insights on some of the more complicated issues, and building a “formula template” to drop employee counts, benefit costs, and more into a simple grid to help bring clarity to the implementation in 2014. Getting franchisees moving Jeff Bevis Early on, we determined that encouraging our franchisees to get ACA-eligible