Friday, July 12, 2013

Fwd: qotd: What is best health care coverage for part-time workers?

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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: qotd: What is best health care coverage for part-time workers?
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2013 08:33:07 -0700
From: Don McCanne <>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <>

The Buffalo News
July 10, 2013
Wegmans cuts health benefits for part-time workers
By Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Et tu, Wegmans?

The Rochester-based grocer that has been continually lauded for
providing health insurance to its part-time workers will no longer offer
that benefit.

Until recently, the company voluntarily offered health insurance to
employees who worked 20 hours per week or more. Companies are required
by law to offer health insurance only to full-time employees who work 30
hours or more per week.

Wegmans employs roughly 1,433 full-time employees and 4,304 part-time
employees in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Several Wegmans employees confirmed part-time health benefits had been
cut and said the company said the decision was related to changes
brought about by the Affordable Care Act.

However, part-time employees may actually benefit from Wegmans'
decision, according to Brian Murphy, a partner at Lawley Benefits Group,
an insurance brokerage firm in Buffalo.

"If you have an employee that qualifies for subsidized coverage, they
might be better off going with that than a limited part-time benefit,"
Murphy said.

That's because subsidized coverage can have a lower out-of-pocket cost
for the insured employee while also providing better benefits than an
employer-paid plan.

Under the Affordable Care Act, part-time employees are not eligible for
health insurance subsidies if their employer offers insurance.

"It's a win-win. The employee gets subsidized coverage, and the employer
gets to lower costs," Murphy said.

"As a private company, we don't share specifics of our employee benefits
programs. It's a given that health care reform will result in some
changes to our benefits program, but it will not change our commitment
to meeting the needs of our employees," Wegmans said in a statement.

Comment: The best coverage for part-time workers? Well, for part-time
workers and for everyone else, it would be a single payer national
health program. But we don't have that. So, before we can enact an
improved Medicare for everyone, what would be the best way to cover
part-time workers under the Affordable Care Act?

During the reform process, the plight of the part-time worker remained
an important consideration in trying to design a near-universal system
(which it didn't turn out to be). Part-time workers tend to have very
low wages making it impossible to purchase decent insurance on their
own, and yet their family incomes are often just barely high enough that
they do not qualify for Medicaid.

Congress decided to continue to rely heavily on employer-sponsored
health plans for coverage. The problem with part-time workers is that
most employers either provided them with no coverage at all, or, if they
did, the coverage was often so spartan that it was almost worthless.
Although it was decided to require all but the smallest employers to
provide employee coverage or face financial penalties, legislators
yielded to larger employers who wanted part-time employees to be exempt.
The threshold qualifying as part-time was set at 30 hours.

Think of all of the occupations in which flexible, part-time positions
are ideal. Large retail sellers, supermarket chains, restaurant and fast
food chains, hospitality services, and so forth, serve as examples.
Labor costs are a great concern for these employers, and they have
struggled with the concept of trying to meet the high costs of adequate
health benefit programs.

But look at the opportunity they have with the 30 hour threshold. They
no longer have to feel guilty about providing only worthless plans or no
plans at all. Under the Affordable Care Act, the government is going to
provide part-time employees subsidies inversely related to income,
supposedly allowing these people to buy more comprehensive coverage
through the exchanges. Employers can walk away, and these employees will
get a better deal from the government.

Although it may be a better deal, it's still not such a hot prospect.
Even with subsidies for both premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, these
low income individuals will still not be able to afford their portion of
the costs and will face financial hardship as a result.

So these employers will be relieved of their responsibility of paying
for health care coverage for their part-time employees, and the
taxpayers will pick up the tab. Although there are important reasons for
bringing an end to employer-sponsored coverage, it is unfair to give
these employers special breaks, especially when considering that several
members of the Walton family are near the top of the billionaires list.
We should pay more taxes so that they can collect more billions?

No. This "win-win," wherein "the employee gets subsidized coverage, and
the employer gets to lower costs," is a loser for health care equity and
justice. As said at the start, we need a single payer national health

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