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Employers gradually bailing out on employee coverage

Health-Care Law Spurs a Shift to Part-Time Workers

By Julie Jargon, Louise Radnofsky and Alexandra Berzon
The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2012

Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul's requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee.

Several restaurants, hotels and retailers have started or are preparing to limit schedules of hourly workers to below 30 hours a week. That is the threshold at which large employers in 2014 would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 for each worker.

If a company offers health insurance but the coverage is deemed sparse or unaffordable, the company must pay $3,000 for every worker who gets a federal tax subsidy to purchase coverage as an individual.

Pillar Hotels & Resorts this summer began to focus more on hiring part-time workers among its 5,500 employees. The company has 210 franchise hotels, under the Sheraton, Fairfield Inns, Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns brands.

CKE Restaurants Inc., parent of the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's burger chains, began two months ago to hire part-time workers to replace full-time employees who left.

Home retailer Anna's Linens Inc. is considering cutting hours for some full-time employees to avoid the insurance mandate if the health-care law isn't repealed.

Darden Restaurants Inc. was among the first companies to say it was changing hiring in response to the health-care law. The Orlando, Fla., parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden in February began testing hiring part-time workers in four markets to replace some full-time employees who had left, a spokesman said.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405297020470710457809494170904783...

And...

Jobs Without Benefits: The Health Insurance Crisis Faced by Small Businesses and Their Workers

By Ruth Robertson, Kristof Stremikis, Sara R. Collins, Michelle M. Doty, and Karen Davis
The Commonwealth Fund, November 2012

The share of U.S. workers in small firms who were offered, eligible for, and covered by health insurance through their jobs has declined over the past decade. Less than half of workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees were both offered and eligible for health insurance through their jobs in 2010, down from 58 percent in 2003.

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Issue%20Brief...

And...

Employers Expected To Keep Some Of Health Law's Popular Provisions, Even If Obama Loses

By Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News, November 5, 2012

No matter who wins the presidential election...

Employers will continue looking for ways to cap expenses, moving toward higher deductible policies, or placing limits on how much they pay toward their workers’ premiums -- both trends that predate the federal health law, analysts say.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/November/06/employer-insura...

Comment:

By Don McCanne, MD

As we have stated several times before, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed to encourage the perpetuation of employer-sponsored health plans which currently provide the majority of the population with coverage. Current trends do not look favorable. More than half of workers in small companies do not even receive health care coverage, and some larger employers are beginning to shift to part-time employment in order to escape the insurance requirements of ACA. Those that continue coverage are shifting more costs to employees through higher deductibles and through a shift to defined contribution programs.

A health care financing system should provide full coverage for everyone automatically. Obviously, ACA does not do that. The CBO predicts that 30 million will remain without coverage, but based on the fact that employers are beginning to bail out, it is likely that the numbers of uninsured will be even greater. We have to do something different.

How could we achieve automatic enrollment for everyone? Simple. Just as with Medicare Part A, enroll every qualified individual automatically. In a properly designed single payer system, absolutely everyone would be qualified, and therefore everyone would be enrolled.