Hollywood: Hey, this Obamacare thing is going to be pretty costly and complicated for us

posted at 8:41 pm on June 27, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Not even the kind of cash Hollywood donated to President Obama can protect them from unintended consequences.

Three letters have been giving the payroll-services industry fits for several months now: ACA. That’s the semi-acronym for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and it’s up to the payroll industry — which cuts checks to production workers and offers related financial services to TV and film studios — to help educate its clients on the rules before a good portion of the law kicks in Jan. 1.

“It’s a morass of regulations and requirements, and everyone’s trying to figure out what their exposure is,” says Eric Belcher, president and CEO of Cast & Crew Entertainment Services. Adds Mark Goldstein, CEO of Entertainment Partners, which has held 16 seminars to help studios understand ACA: “It’s going to be a very big deal.”

Determining the exact nature of the new laws has been difficult, given that many ACA terms have yet to be worked out. Hollywood productions, for instance, might find it irksome simply trying to categorize employees as full- or part-time, seasonal or variable, and it’s important that they get the classifications right lest they face hefty fines. “ACA is thousands of pages, and it wasn’t written with this industry in mind,” says Belcher.

In fairness, who could have possibly guessed that a top-down solution from Washington and thousands of pages of regulations would cause problems for businesses with unorthodox work schedules, scads of part-time, contract, union and non-union employees from different fields, and the need for flexibility?

So, what’s Hollywood doing about this problem? Gamely making sure they help the president live up to every unfounded promise he made, right? No, they’re acting rationally and pondering such strategies as, “running to foreign countries, given that ACA doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens working abroad.”

Trying to figure out if they can wrap productions within 90 days before the Obamacare coverage requirement kicks in:

Some also say the number of production days in the U.S. are likely to be cut due to ACA because there’s a 90-day waiting period before productions must either pay a penalty or offer health insurance to full-time workers. That rule provides big incentives for a production to wrap in less than three months.

And, wondering if they can minimize their overhead by employing as few full-time workers as possible:

Payroll firm Entertainment Partners has authored a 39-page report that includes 81 frequently asked questions. FAQ No. 7, for example, contains the seven steps to determine whether or not a production employs 50 full-time workers, which would trigger an “employer mandate” for health coverage. In a nutshell, if you’ve got about 40 employees who work 130 hours a month and an additional 20 who work 65 hours monthly, you’re probably subject to the mandate.

I have a feeling this is headed the direction of the New York gun-control legislation, which found a surprising, hilariously hypocritical critic after its passage— in Hollywood:

ALBANY — The sweeping gun control measure signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and hailed by Democratic leaders has a surprising critic: Hollywood.

Officials in the movie and television industry say the new laws could prevent them from using the lifelike assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that they have employed in shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and films like “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Twenty-seven film and television projects, including programs like “Blue Bloods” and “Person of Interest,” are now in production in New York State using assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Industry workers say that they need to use real weapons for verisimilitude, that it would be impractical to try to manufacture fake weapons that could fire blanks, and that the entertainment industry should not be penalized accidentally by a law intended as a response to mass shootings.

Well, we certainly wouldn’t want any law-abiding citizens with no intent to kill anyone “penalized accidentally by a law intended as a response to mass shootings.” So, in New York, you have the ludicrous display of the industry responsible for more gun porn than the entire NRA, whose big players happily smear the rest of the country’s law-abiding gun owners as murderers, asking for an exception to the rule many of them lobbied for so they can continue to make gun porn.

I expect to see the same on Obamacare. A bunch of good-looking, rich people to whom backing Obamacare gives a thrill of moral superiority will tell the rest of us we should embrace the law because it’s good, you see. Then, all their production companies will find exceptions to the law because they don’t want to be “accidentally penalized by a law intended” to help the little people. And, then Alec Baldwin will take millions to shill for Capital One, and the beat goes on.

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