By – Peter A. Finocchio and Caroline Rayburn
It should come as no surprise to those of us who have been following the disastrous rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “ObamaCare,” that Walmart announced today that it will be cutting benefits for part-time employees – those who work less than 30 hours per week. The move represents a trend among employers large and small in the aftermath of ObamaCare’s implementation. In January 2013, Target announced a similar move. When Target announced its changes, the company explained that “health care reform is transforming the benefits landscape and affecting how all employers, including Target, administer health benefits coverage.” Target’s coverage drop for part-time workers itself followed in the footsteps of several other retailers such as Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, and Forever 21. In short, Walmart is no isolated case. Between 2009 and 2013, the proportion of large retail chains that do not offer health coverage to part-time employees has risen from 56 percent to 62 percent.
In addition to cutting benefits for 2 percent of its total workforce, Walmart is raising costs. The major retailer announced that it is increasing premiums for its associates. On a conference call, Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Global Benefits, Sally Welborn, said that the company has “worked hard to prevent passing increases on to associates,” but as “health care costs keep going up for all of us in the U.S.,” they simply were left with no alternative. Employees permitted to keep their health plans through Walmart will see a significant jump in premiums, with the “cheapest and most popular Walmart plan increasing from $3.50 to $21.90 per paycheck,” according to CNNMoney.
Just one day before these changes were announced, liberals were gloating that Walmart, often a source of criticism for them, was helping its employees to sign up for ObamaCare. Think Progress gleamed at Walmart’s announcement that the chain was staffing 2,700 of its retailers with insurance agents to help employees enroll in new plans via Medicare or ObamaCare’s online insurance marketplace.
Liberals have countered that ObamaCare is helping dropped consumers find better plans on the exchanges, yet this has been largely untrue as dropped coverage and increased costs have gone hand-in-hand. For Walmart employees, new plans will almost certainly be a downgrade. In January, the Washington Examiner reported that Walmart’s health plan “is more affordable and provides significantly better access to high-quality medical care than ObamaCare.” The Washington Examiner piece goes on to cite a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association that found the premiums of unsubsidized ObamaCare employees to be five to nine times higher than Walmart premiums. Walmart’s 30,000 part-time employees likely will not be thrilled as Walmart helps them search for new plans.
Time and time again, Americans continue to suffer the consequences of ObamaCare. Health plans have been canceled, patients have been forced to see other doctors, and the cost of health care has continued to rise. Now, many businesses are feeling the pinch from ObamaCare as they make difficult decisions about the health benefits they can offer part-time employees – if they can even afford to provide coverage to them at all. The ugly truth about ObamaCare continues to be masked by talking points from the Left that herald greater dependence on government subsidies and downplay the law’s disincentives to work. AMAC will not let these truths go uncovered.