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This Tiny Change Under Obamacare Could Cost One Industry Millions of Dollars

January 2, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230612

Issues with Obamacare's rollout have been big news for 2013. However, the healthcare overhaul promises one pricey change that has been widely overlooked -- calorie counts for vending machines.

Roughly 5 million vending machines will be required to display calorie information nationwide, the Associated Press reports. The final rules and processes for roll out are still up in the air, but are projected to be issued in February. However, the Food and Drug Administration estimates the change should cost the vending machine industry $25.8 million initially and $24 million per year after that.

The rules will apply to companies that operate 20 or more machines, 10,800 nationwide. The National Automatic Merchandising Association reportedly estimates that nearly three quarters of companies affected have three or fewer employees. The profit margin for these vending machine companies is extremely low, making the change especially taxing for business owners.

Related: With Individual Mandate Softened, Americans Paying a Very Unfair Obamacare Tax

The industry group has urged the government to be flexible in the implementation of the potentially costly rules. While the FDA argues that if just 0.02 percent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week the health care system would be saved over $25 million, there is little return on investment for vending machine business owners.

The National Automatic Merchandising Association has also pushed back against Obamacare's definition of "large employer," hoping to ensure that the size standard varies from industry to industry. The association additionally supports raising the number of hours required to be considered a full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act from 30 hours to 40 hours per week.

The government's growing concern with nutrition has affected all sectors of the food industry. In late 2013, the FDA phased out trans fat from the U.S. food supply. In New York City, the Department of Health requires chain restaurants to post calorie information, a rule that may soon be implemented in the U.S. more broadly.

Related: High-Tech Vending Machines That Serve Healthy Snacks See Rapid Growth