Daseke CFO Wheeler Comments on New Health-Care Law in Transport Topics

By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter, Transport Topics

This story appears in the Sept. 2 print edition of Transport Topics.

Trucking companies said they are adjusting 2014 health-care plans to meet federal requirements so employees have adequate time to understand enrollment changes.

That was the feedback from 11 companies that responded to Transport Topics’ requests for comment about the Affordable Care Act, which takes effect Jan. 1.

Also known as “Obamacare,” the law is preceded by required open enrollment periods, which can start as early as Oct. 1.

“Compliance with the laws, rules and regulations is paramount, and . . . providing a top-quality health-care experience for our team members is our priority,” said R. Scott Wheeler, chief financial officer at Texas-based flatbed carrier Daseke Inc.

“At this point, we are still reviewing the massive detail of this issue and will be making some decisions in the near future,” said Don Cochran, vice chairman of Universal Truckload Services Inc. in Warren, Mich. “The legislation is a major concern to us, and we know it will cost us more individually and as a corporation. We are doubtful that we can fully mitigate the cost.”

There was no immediate sign from the responding fleets that they have decided to follow the lead of UPS Inc., which told non-Teamsters employees that their spouses who have coverage elsewhere won’t get it next year from UPS.

Cliff Yentes, corporate risk manager, for Dart Transit Co.’s Advantage Management Corp. unit in Eagan, Minn., said, “The new regulations are challenging. We’re evaluating all of our options right now. We want to continue to provide competitive benefits. We do know the Affordable Care Act imposes new taxes on us that we have never had to deal with before, and that will impact our bottom line.”

“Our intention is to try and renew our current health-care policy and keep the increase as small as possible,” said Jim Subler, president of Classic Carriers in Versailles, Ohio.

“Right now, they are telling us a 15% increase, which is more than we will accept.

“We are looking at increasing our self-funded portion of the plan to see if we can keep the cost in line and looking at every available option to hopefully still provide private health care to our employees at a reasonable cost,” Subler said.

Dave Manning, president of Tennessee Express, said his initial meeting with insurers was “shocking.”

“The initial quote is expected to represent about a 32% increase over our current costs. We haven’t finalized our plan structure or the costs at this point,” he said.

Complexity is another concern.

“The law is very, very confusing,” said Ike Brown, vice chairman of NFI Industries, based in Vineland, N.J. “How is the average Joe in the street going to understand this?

“We have had several change proposals put before senior management, but we haven’t finalized anything yet. We may end up having employees bear more of a cost burden.”

Clifton Parker, president of G&P Trucking in Columbia, S.C., said UPS’ decision has attracted attention.

“UPS has made it easier for us if we choose to follow their lead,” said Parker, who like others said he was concerned about the law’s changes. “Right now, we have not made any decision regarding the working spouse.”

Others are planning new approaches.

“We’re adding a clinic and probably raising our deductibles a bit,” said Shepard Dunn, CEO of BestWay Express in Vincennes, Ind., to provide primary care and free generic drugs

Others’ observations were general.

“J.B. Hunt is still analyzing [Obamacare] and no decisions made for 2014 yet,” David Mee, chief financial officer of the Lowell, Ark., company told TT in an e-mail.

“Averitt is planning to maintain the same levels of health-care coverage,” spokesman Brad Brown said. “Our best strategy for containing rising health-care costs is to continue to emphasize prevention and wellness.”

Holly Wachtendonk, spokeswoman for Schneider National Inc., said any health-care changes will be communicated to employees before any public announcement.

FedEx Corp. and its Ground and Freight units didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.

Share this story: