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Welcome to Gator's Dockside
A Florida restaurant chain has begun adding an "ACA surcharge" to every bill. There are some glaring problems with the policy.
By Steve Benen
According to the CEO's estimates, "Obamacare" would end up adding about 11 cents to the cost of a pizza. In other words, based on the company's pricing at the time, the price of a large pepperoni pizza would go from $14.08 to $14.19 -- and in the process, all of Papa John's employees would have access to affordable health care.
Even at the time, it wasn't clear why this was supposed to sound outrageous. Nevertheless, a year and a half later, a similar anecdote is causing a stir for similar reasons.
Diners at eight Gator's Dockside casual eateries are finding a 1% Affordable Care Act surcharge on their tabs, which comes to 15 cents on a typical $15 lunch tab. Signs on the door and at tables alert diners to the fee, which is also listed separately on the bill.
This story, eagerly touted by the Heritage Foundation yesterday, featured a sample receipt in which a customer bought a meal costing $21.15, but the customer's tab at the North Florida restaurant added a 20-cent "ACA Surcharge."
Broadly speaking, there are two noticeable problems with this. The first is similar to the Papa John's story: 20 cents just doesn't sound horrible.
Let's say the next time I go to a restaurant with my wife for lunch, instead of getting a bill for $22.64, we'll get a bill for $22.84. And with those two extra dimes, we're told everyone who works at that restaurant will be able to receive affordable medical care.
Putting aside the question of whether a restaurant actually faces any meaningful financial burdens associated with the Affordable Care Act, am I really supposed to find this scandalous?
But that's not the only problem.
The management of Gator's Dockside says the "surcharge" is necessary to cover the costs of the employer mandate under the ACA. This might be more persuasive if Gator's Dockside were actually paying higher costs as a result of the employer mandate, but for now, it's not.
Though the restaurant blames the new surcharge on Obamacare, the employer mandate, which will require Gator's Dockside to provide coverage to 70 percent of its full-time employees, actually won't go into effect until 2015.
Yep, customers are paying more now for a burden the restaurant chain expects next year.
Making matters slightly worse, Gator's Dockside told CNN the surcharge is necessary, but there some independently owned Gator's Dockside franchises that aren't adding the fee to customers' bills -- suggesting it may not be necessary after all.
If the right is going to rely on anecdotal evidence, it'll need to do better than this.