JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- From large corporations to small mom-and-pop businesses, the Affordable Care Act will soon affect every kind of company and all their employees.
"It has probably been the greatest challenge I've had as a small business owner," says Ann Freeman, President of River City Security Services.
Some weeks, Freeman spends nearly 30 hours meeting with CPAs, attorneys and insurance companies, and then tries to explain the new law to her employees.
"We're trying to be as transparent as we can be but the truth is we don't know exactly how it's going to impact us in the future."
The great unknown, as Freeman calls it, has sparked a trend of companies taking action now to save their bottom line later.
This week, retail giant Forever 21 cut some employees hours to 29.5 a week which is 30 minutes shy of the new ACA requirement to provide full timers with coverage.
A company spokesperson sent Action News the following statement Monday:
Forever 21, like all retailers, staffs its stores based on projected store sales, completely independent of the Affordable Care Act. After a recent evaluation, Forever 21 realigned its staffing needs to better reflect sales expectations. This realignment impacted 196 employees, less than 1% of all U.S. store employees. Furthermore, Forever 21 regularly promotes and converts employees in the ordinary course of business. Since the start of our fiscal year, March 1, 2013, Forever 21 has converted 421 part-time store employees to full-time status making them benefits eligible. Forever 21 values all of its employees and made every effort to affect as few employees as possible in this realignment.
Even though the company says the change to employees hours wasn't prompted by the new health care law, Freeman worries cuts like that could become regular news.
"It's the harsh reality of who is going to pay for the 30 million people who are uninsured who are now supposedly going to get insurance?"
Freeman says she's planning ahead as much as possible to avoid cuts to her own staff, but says her business practices have already changed as result of the Affordable Care Act.
"We're being very particular about the sort of business we go after. We've always been selective but never because of health insurance."