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Extended interview: Steve Smith

Published On: Nov 13 2013 03:42:27 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 13 2013 03:49:59 PM CST

Steve Smith is the President and CEO of Food City, a grocery store chain in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee that employs over 13,000 people.

You used a term that really struck me when it comes to Obamacare. You said there are 'unintended consequences.'

Well, I think there are. We look at the Obamacare law, the Affordable Care Act, as something that's really about people because it's dealing with very personal decisions when you come to health care. We try to put the politics of it aside, and look at what it does to our people. Because if you're in the service industry like we are at Food City, our success is predicated on the people we have and how well they execute. So, one of the unintended consequences, and if you're in the grocery business or the restaurant business, you have to have a lot of part-time people. We do 60 percent of our total volume between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. So, if you think about that, the other days, the weekdays, are very slow. The weekends are very busy. So we have to augment our staff with a lot of part-time folks, a lot of young people, 15, 16, 17, 18-year-olds, but a lot of retirees as well. That's 67 to 68 percent of our part-time folks actually qualify for insurance either with their parents, or on Medicaid, or Medicare just as their age. But, if you think about the folks that we have, a lot of them would work 32, 33, 34 hours and by our standards, which should be classified as part-time folks. Unfortunately, under the new law, we can't work those folks more than 30 hours or more. So, we've had to reduce those folks' hours, at no fault of their own. They're good associates, do a great job for us, but if we don't, then we would basically have to offer them health care, which would add to our cost, and possibly to the consumer's cost. Then if they didn't take it, it would put them in a more difficult situation too. So, that's one of those unintended consequences. I think there's some good things about the health care law. The fact that 26-year-olds, or young people up to 26, can still be on their parents' insurance policy is one of those good things. Maybe taking the cap off for folks that have a lot of health care problems is probably a good thing, but there's also some unintended consequences. And I think that's where we wish that we could sit down, and legislators can sit down, and correct some of the things that have been passed.