Business Tip – December 2016

mapei_sponsorObamacare: the road to repeal

By Pat O’Connor,
Kent and O’Connor, Washington, D.C.

pat-oconnor

For the past six years, “Repeal Obamacare” has been a potent mantra, a rallying cry that energized Republicans and turned out voters. The Republican-controlled House churned out repeal legislation on a regular basis, passing over 50 repeal bills! Yet, with President Obama’s veto pen always looming, repeal was never going to happen and everyone knew it.

Only now, with the stunning upset victory of Donald Trump for president, is repeal of the massive and controversial health care bill suddenly real. Republicans control the White House and both chambers in Congress. The expectation for bold action from the Republican base is very high. Does this mean repeal of Obamacare will be a done deal in the first 100 days?

Not necessarily. In fact, the road ahead for Obamacare repeal is complicated.

Practical realities

First are the practical realities of the legislative process. Republicans are in control, but they don’t have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, a tactic Democrats would emphatically employ to block any repeal legislation.

Of course, Republican leaders can get around this by repealing key parts of the health care law through the “budget reconciliation” process, a special procedure that only requires a simple majority vote. (That is the same process used by Democrats to pass The Affordable Care Act [ACA] in the first place.) Still, budget reconciliation takes time, requiring passage of budget resolutions and other procedural niceties, and it does not allow for total repeal. While it is a likely vehicle for ACA repeal, it will be neither quick nor clear cut.

Executive and administrative options

Legislative avenues aside, the new president will have any number of administrative options to block, change or suspend key elements of the law. For example, he can cut off funding for cost-sharing subsidies to insurers (which did not have explicit appropriations and is being challenged in courts by House Republicans). Experts agree this action alone would shut down the health exchanges. Or, he could simply stop enforcing penalties for the individual mandate or for employers who fail to provide affordable coverage.

Then what?

Yet, any of these paths to repeal or cripple the ACA ignore a fundamental question: Then what?

For good or ill, the ACA has taken root. It touches the lives of every American. The entire health care industry – from hospitals to doctors to insurance companies and other providers – has adapted and reshaped dramatically in response to the health care law. Twenty-two million people depend on Obamacare for their health insurance. Will a new President Trump really want to begin his presidency stripping health insurance from millions of Americans and upending one-fifth of the economy?

That’s why the “repeal” chants shifted to “repeal and replace” over a year ago – a subtle acknowledgement that something has to take the place of Obamacare. But up until now, “repeal and replace” has been little more than a slogan, with only the broadest outlines of what the replacement might be and little analysis of the impact. As a result, Republicans are split over what direction to take. Some want immediate repeal, others see a more deliberate approach as necessary to avoid major upheaval for both insured individuals and insurance markets.

The model for “repeal and replace” can be seen in the plan passed last December by both the House and Senate through budget reconciliation (and vetoed by President Obama). It eliminated the expansion of Medicaid coverage for Americans near or below the poverty line, eliminated the subsidies for Americans to buy their own insurance on the ACA exchanges, eliminated the penalties on individuals for not being insured and on employers for not providing affordable coverage. The measure delayed the effective date for two years to allow Congress to figure out the “replace” part of the equation.

This template reveals a simple truth: dismantling Obamacare is easy – whether through Executive action, budget reconciliation or a combination of the two. The daunting political and policy challenge is finding an alternative that works.

President-elect Trump says he wants to preserve the two most popular features of Obamacare: guaranteed coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (without being overcharged) and allowing young people up to age 26 to be covered on a parent’s plan. Yet, the guaranteed coverage provision is costly to insurers and without the other interconnected carrots and sticks (such as the individual mandate and the premium subsidies that brings healthy patients into the marketplace), premiums will spike, potentially leaving insurance markets in even greater disarray. This is the conundrum that Trumpcare, like its predecessor, must contend with.

Companies should remain cautious as they look ahead, allowing events to unfold before deciding on a change in benefits strategy. No doubt, Obamacare is on its way out. But don’t be surprised if it lingers a bit longer than expected.

Pat O’Connor is a principal in Kent & O’Connor, Incorporated, a Washington, D.C.-based government affairs firm. A veteran of Capitol Hill with particular expertise in health, transportation and the environment, O’Connor works with trade associations and companies to find workable solutions to the most pressing regulatory and legislative issues. For more information, visit www.kentoconnor.com or call 202-223-6222.

Ask the Experts – December 2016

SponsoredbyLaticreteQUESTION

We have a contractor who used two different tiles. He bought the 4” x 4” tile elsewhere but after installation it appears to have changed color. The tile he bought from another source at the bottom, stayed looking like it did prior to installation. What could have caused this?

ANSWER

glazed-wall-tile-ateThe color of some tiles can change with grouting, for example this can occur with soft, natural stones and unglazed, honed or polished through-body ceramic/porcelain or quarry tiles (and/or if grout release wasn’t used).

It appears the tiles shown in this installation are glazed ceramic. You stated the two sizes of tile were procured from two different distributors. It is possible that even if the tiles are from the same manufacturer they may have been manufactured on different dates or in different lots. That being the case, the glaze may have a slight variation between the two. The glaze also appears to be different on the bullnose tile.

If spare, uninstalled 4” x 4” and 3” x 6” tiles from this job, new from their cartons, are placed side by side, I suspect you may notice the difference in color between them. Have you checked to see if the two tiles are from the same manufacturer and what their date of manufacture and manufacturer lot numbers are? This information should be available on the end flaps of the tile cartons. If the manufacturer, date of manufacture or lot numbers differ, there may well have been a difference in glaze color out of the box that wasn’t noticed until the tiles were installed and grouted

It is important to verify that all of this information aligns between all cartons of tile before beginning the installation.

Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

QUESTION

I need to know what the TCNA standard for slope in a commercial kitchen is.

ANSWER

The minimum slope for floor drains is 1/4” as specified by ANSI A108.01 2.2, which directs compliance with ANSI A112.21. The Universal Plumbing Code also specifies minimum slope of 1/4” per 12”.

The mortar bed is to be of a uniform thickness. ANSI A108.01 2.6.1.4 and 2.6.1.5 include a chart and discussion of minimum and maximum mortar bed thicknesses based on the service rating of the floor. For a commercial kitchen rated as Extra Heavy/Heavy, the bed thickness is 2-1/2” minimum to 3-1/2” maximum. Appropriate size and gauge galvanized welded wire mesh (i.e. 2” x 2” 16 gauge) must be suspended as reinforcing wire in the mortar bed. If the mortar bed will be in excess of 3-1/2” thick, heavier reinforcing, larger aggregate, richer mix and greater compaction may be required and must be detailed by the specifier.

To keep the mortar bed from becoming too thick or the slopes to a drain too long, multiple drain locations should be planned based on the layout of the kitchen.

Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

Editor’s Letter – December 2016

Lesley psf head shotHere we are, at the end of yet another year. It’s incomprehensible that the year has flown by so quickly. Personally, I remember like yesterday being at Surfaces/ \TISE West in January and getting a call that my dad’s health had declined, then scurrying to make plans to be with him in his final days in New Jersey. In many ways, the rest of the year has been a bit of a blur, punctuated with many celebrities and musical greats leaving our planet, and people in the industry and their loved ones struggling with health or professional challenges and changes.

There have been victories and there have been disappointments. Our country seems poised for major change. Some fear those changes, some look forward to them with hopeful anticipation. But to reference the Nobel Prize for Literature winner quote that opens this article, “The times, they are a-changin’.” That is for SURE.

We’ve had many changes and developments in our industry, from progress on gauged porcelain tile/installation standards, to reaching the 1300th member for NTCA, to hiring regional evaluators for the Certified Tile Installer testing program and a coordinator to oversee it all. Changes to the NTCA Strategic Plan have been made to include:

  1. Adding value to NTCA membership
  2. Growing apprenticeship and online education programs
  3. Promoting quality through further development of training and education programs
  4. Taking the Five Star Contractor program to a whole new level

This comes with aforementioned investment in new personnel and programs including a Spanish-speaking presenter for our workshops and translations, new coordinators and office support. You’ll learn more about NTCA accomplishments and 2017 plans in our January issue, but hopefully the NTCA Previews section we started a few months ago is giving you an idea of the tremendous progress the industry is making, working together, pulling together, talking and debating together and moving ahead. As I said in my November letter, that quality of collaboration demonstrated by our industry makes me particularly proud to be a member of it.

Several things are well known about change – not many people really love or embrace it – and that change is necessary, will happen and is a necessary factor for growth.

That being said, how do you handle change? Are you a step-on-the-brakes kind of person or a full-speed-ahead person? How do you navigate the roller coaster that change inevitably brings? If negotiating change brings a lot of stress to you and your team, this could be a time to refresh and refine your relationship with it to provide a smoother, more manageable path for the foreseeable future – and beyond. And if you have words of wisdom or experience to share, I’d love to hear about them and feature them in a Business Tip article early next year.

In the meantime, enjoy the coming time that provides a lull or a respite from the regular busyness of life – sometimes by replacing it with busyness of its own. The time known as “The Holidays.” Enjoy those you love and those who love you. These are precious days. May you be blessed with health, joy, prosperity, love and laughter to take you through the end of 2016 and provide an excellent launch pad for 2017.

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

President’s Letter – December 2016

JWoelfel_headshotWow! Those two years went by quickly. I am writing my last President’s Letter and it is not a sad moment, but an appreciative moment.

Two years ago when I became president, I laid out what I thought were some important goals, like the NTCA taking its rightful place as the tile industry’s most important association, looking to domestic partners, and international conversations and meetings.

I believe we have attained those goals. We are now more than 1300 members strong, our voice at national installation standard meetings is valued and respected, and our international dialogue with manufacturers, installers and associated industry partners is being developed in a very positive way.

Next year is the 70th anniversary of the NTCA and our association is stronger than ever going into the future. At the same time we are looking to our past to affirm our values, training and education, quality installations, qualified labor, and continuing to be professional tile contractors. These values should never be lost. In fact, these values need to be shouted from the mountaintops to gain the attention of home builders, general contractors and owners, so that this or the next installation done for them is by an NTCA member.

board-officers

(L to r) Board advisors John Cox, Dan Welch and Nyle Wadford; outgoing president/chairman of the board James Woelfel; new NTCA president Martin Howard with 1st vice president Christopher Walker.

Before I ride off into the Arizona sunset, I want to say how fortunate the NTCA and its members are that Martin Howard of David Allen Company is the next president. I have sat with Martin many times at NTCA, TCNA and ANSI meetings, watching him save tile contractors money and grief. Martin is a fervent defender of tile contractors and of industry standards. He wants to maximize our membership value for all of our members. He will be a great president.

I would like to thank the NTCA staff for all of the help and guidance for the last two years: Bart, Jim, Mark and everyone else have been wonderful. I want to thank the Executive Committee for taking a chance on me and then giving me their full support – it means a lot. I want to thank my parents Butch and Mary for keeping the doors open while I bounced around the country the last two years. Thank you to my son Preston, who let Dad go out and play with his friends knowing there was less time for him. I am so proud of you.

Thank you to my wife Chris. As you know, she has battled cancer this last year, yet she has supported me 100% and has represented our industry with class, dignity and immeasurable strength. She is my foundation – I love you.

Thank you to all of you who read my letters. I know how valuable your time is and I appreciate the feedback.

Respectfully,
James Woelfel, President NTCA
Chairman, NTCA
Technical Committee
480-829-9197
www.artcraftgmt.com

P.S. I am still chairman of the Technical Committee; I look forward to seeing you all in the future.

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