On Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon, the National Restaurant Association expressed concerns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (PPACA) impact on restaurants' ability to continue to be engines of job growth.

Speaking on behalf of the NRA and White Castle was Jamie Richardson, vice president, government, shareholder and community relations, White Castle System Inc. Richardson told the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee that PPACA is already having a chilling effect on restaurant expansion and hiring.

The NRA supports repeal of the law because of concerns that the employer mandate and associated penalties create administrative and cost burdens that could stifle growth.

Richardson's statement reads, in part:

"In the restaurant business, we all manage risks, but the uncertainty of the increased costs the health care law brings, not to mention a variety of regulations on other issues, creates a risk that no one can manage against ... Many in the industry are worried that our slim profits per employee will not be sufficient to cover the additional cost of more employees accepting our offer of coverage or potential penalties that may apply despite our best efforts to provide the required coverage

"More than two years after PPACA was signed into law, restaurant operators cannot predict how the law will fully impact their businesses as we do not have any formal guidance or rules on what we must do to comply."

White Castle, he added, estimates its current health care plan costs could climb by more than 20 percent in 2014 due to the requirements of the law.

White Castle employs nearly 10,000 team members at 408 restaurant locations in 12 states.

Richardson urged Congress to enact health care reform that controls costs, including allowing small businesses to pool together to buy insurance at either the state or national level, and to let businesses cross state lines to buy insurance. He said Congress must be sensitive to enacting reforms that function well for labor-intensive industries, such as restaurants, that have lower profits per employee.

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