Five Guys Franchise Owner Tries To Avoid Giving His Workers Health Benefits Under Obamacare

Mike Ruffer, a Five Guys franchise owner who operates eight of the chain restaurants in the Durham, North Carolina area, has decided to join the restaurant industry’s war on health care reform, claiming that the additional costs of providing his workers with health care coverage will raise the prices of hot dogs and burgers for customers who patronize his establishments.

“Any added costs are going to have to be passed on,” Ruffer told the Examiner:

Ruffer was the star witness at a Monday Heritage Foundation seminar on the impact Obamacare will have on small businesses. He is typical of many: Because he has enough full time employees to activate the law, he faces either coughing up the money to provide health insurance or paying a fine of up to $3,000 per worker.

Ruffer initially thought he would escape the law because he created each restaurant as its own company. But the law doesn’t recognize that distinction, so now he’s trying to determine if he can fire enough workers, or cut enough hours, to slide out of the grasp of Obamacare.

As the Examiner explicitly states, Ruffer is actively trying to “escape” the health reform law, and has had his mind made up about it for a while. That’s become an increasingly common position among large employers — particularly in the service industry, where large restaurant chains have been threatening to cut workers’ benefits by shifting costs onto them, cut back on wages, cut back on hours, or raise their products’ prices. Ruffer has, by his own admission, considered every single one of those options. But that isn’t a reflection of the reform law itself — it’s a reflection of companies’ desire to protect their own bottom line by having their low-wage employees go uninsured or obtain coverage through Medicaid, rather than provide them with basic benefits.


To date, these employers’ efforts have not been met with much public enthusiasm, and have even resulted in massive PR backlashes. Employers who choose this route are also putting themselves at risk of driving away potential employees who would rather take jobs that offer more robust benefits, as the vast majority of employers plan to keep offering health coverage plans under Obamacare.