Spouses, Unions Risk Losing Health Plans

Investor's Business Daily

"We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away.

That was President Obama selling ObamaCare in 2009, and it was a promise he repeated on numerous occasions. As recently as this spring, Obama claimed that "for the 85% to 90% of Americans who already have health insurance ... they don't have to worry about anything else.

But this week, a survey of big businesses provided additional evidence that it's a promise Obama won't be able to keep.

The survey, by the National Business Group on Health, found that many big businesses that employ more than 10,000 workers think their retired and part-time workers could end up in ObamaCare exchanges instead of on their current company insurance plans.

A fifth of large companies said they expect part-time workers to buy health coverage in the exchange next year, a fourth said the same about retirees too young to qualify for Medicare.

"They see the exchanges as the logical places for them," Helen Darling, president of the NBGH, told Kaiser Health News.

This is just the latest indication that millions will likely lose the coverage they have, even if they want to keep it, once ObamaCare goes into effect.

And a National Journal analysis finds that many workers pushed off the plans they like and dumped into the ObamaCare exchanges will end up paying far more out of pocket than they do today.

"Fewer than half of all families and only a third of single workers would qualify for enough ObamaCare tax subsidies to pay within or below" what they currently contribute for employer-provided health benefits, it found.

The five groups that appear most at risk:Spouses. In August, the shipping giant UPS (UPS) announced it would be cancelling coverage for the spouses of roughly 15,000 white-collar workers next year. It specifically singled out ObamaCare as a chief cause.

The University of Virginia also announced plans to eliminate spousal benefits for those who can get insurance from their own jobs.

This trend is accelerating as ObamaCare takes effect, which will let the cost of spousal coverage shift to the exchanges. A Towers Watson survey found that next year 12% of employers plan to exclude coverage for spouses who can get benefits from their own jobs, up from 4% this year.

Part-timers. Earlier this year, the East Coast-based grocery chain Wegmans decided to drop coverage for part-time workers starting in 2014. Universal Orlando (CMCSA) also plans to stop offering health benefits to its part-timers next year, citing ObamaCare as the reason behind the change.

Other part-time workers who currently get coverage from their employers are at risk, as businesses try to minimize costs involved with ObamaCare. The fact that companies know these workers will be able to buy coverage in the exchanges will likely encourage this trend.

On top of this, businesses are increasingly shifting to more part-time work to avoid the costs of complying with the ObamaCare mandate, since the law will only require that employers offer benefits to those clocking 30 or more hours a week.

Retirees. Shortly after ObamaCare passed, 3M Co. (MMM) said it wouldn't cover retirees with its corporate health insurance plan starting in 2013. "Health care reform has made it more difficult for employers like 3M to provide a plan that will remain competitive," it said in a memo.

Many other companies are following suit. A recent Aon Hewitt survey found that more than 60% of employers intend to "review their retiree health care strategy in light of health care reform and make changes to take advantage of the law.

"Employers are using the exchanges to deliver a promised benefit, but deliver it with less cost," John Grosso, who leads a task force on retiree health care at Aon Hewitt told Reuters.

Local governments looking to offload their pension costs onto federal taxpayers are also planning to push retirees off the plans they like and send them to the ObamaCare exchanges. Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was in the White House when ObamaCare was drafted, plans to shift 30,000 retired city workers onto ObamaCare.

Stockton, Calif.; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and Detroit have also considered similar moves.

Individuals. Many of the 14 million people who currently buy insurance on the individual market will be forced off plans they like because they don't comply with ObamaCare mandates.

Kaiser Health News reports that Ehealthinsurance.com had to shut down an effort to notify members by email about pending cancellations after just one day because they got so many calls.

"They said, 'What are you talking about? I thought I was already on an (Affordable Care Act) plan,'"Carrie McLean, director of customer care for the online health insurance vendor, said.

Union workers. Unions have become increasingly vociferous in their attacks on ObamaCare. In a letter to Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the presidents of the Teamsters, the UFCW and UNITE-HERE warned that ObamaCare will "shatter ... our hard-earned health benefits.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said ObamaCare will end up "dismantling multi-employer health plans" These are nonprofit health plans administered by employers and unions designed for unionized workers who tend to work for many different companies.

United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International has called for ObamaCare's outright repeal, saying it "may cause our members and their families to lose the benefits they currently enjoy as participants in multi-employer health plans."

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