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Obamacare Case Study: A Microbrewery Asks Premiums or Penalties?

Clay Robinson, owner of Sun King Brewing, says his company is weighing both options as they prepare for Obamacare.

Sun King Brewing / Indianapolis
CO-owner/VP: Clay Robinson

2012 revenue: $5 million
Employees: 35 full time, 50 part time
Benefits costs in 2012: Does not provide insurance; $2,000 for staff yoga program
Estimated costs in 2014: $60,000 in penalties or $150,000-$200,000 in premiums

Since brewing up its first batch in 2009, this craft-beer maker has undergone extraordinary growth--boosting output from 5,000 barrels in 2010 to 15,000 in 2012. From the original five owners, the company has come to employ 35 full-timers and about 50 part-time workers. Self-distributing to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores within Indiana, Sun King exceeded $5 million in sales in 2012.

Benefits Today
Voted one of the top small workplaces in central Indiana by the Indianapolis Star, Sun King is proud of its reputation as a company that takes good care of employees, says co-owner and vice president Clay Robinson. Because of the dangers inherent in brewing, the company implemented disability and life insurance for workers last year. In mid-2012, it began offering yoga classes once a week. Sun King also spent more than $40,000 last year on meals for employees, providing lunch three days a week, with a focus on healthful options. The company has never offered health insurance, though. "Everyone who has come here to work--from the owners to people on staff--has made sacrifices to do so, because they believe in our future," says Robinson. "And we've been fortunate that a lot of key employees have wives with health care coverage."

What's Next
By January 2014, Robinson expects Sun King will have 60 full-time-equivalent employees, meaning the company could face (non­deductible) penalties of about $60,000 if it fails to provide health insurance. Benefits experts have advised Sun King that annual premiums will probably run about $5,000 per employee, with the total annual bill for coverage coming in from $150,000 to $200,000, depending on how many people enroll. "That's enough for a couple of tanks to make a lot more beer," says Robinson. Although he and his partners generally view the Affordable Care Act as a catalyst for adding a benefit they believe in, they will carefully weigh all options--including boosting wages to help workers buy their own insurance through the SHOP exchange--before coming to a final decision this fall.

Last updated: Mar 12, 2013


Adam Bluestein is a frequent contributor to Inc., writing about health care, innovation, and new technology. He lives with his wife and two children in Burlington, Vermont.

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