Trainwreck: Obamacare Cutting Employee Hours, Limiting Choices

Posted: Sep 05, 2013 5:10 PM

Keep reading for a fascinating personal account of how the Obamacare trainwreck is playing out at the granular level, courtesy of a benefits professional tasked with unpacking and complying with the labyrinth of new mandates and regulations buried within the law.  But first, more "anecdotal evidence" of a decidedly non-anecdotal phenomenon, this time in New Jersey.  Thanks, Obamacare:

The ill effects of Obamacare continue to add up.  Towns in New Jersey plan to cut full time workers’ hours to avoid offering them health insurance because of Obamacare. The Middletown township has announced that it will reduce hours from 25 of its employees to prepare for the looming implementation of Obamacare. The school district will cut back hours as well. Toms River officials will also act accordingly to keep their costs low, due to the high expenses that Obamacare will impose.  Sharing the same plight, the Berkeley township (the municipality devastated by Hurricane Sandy) is considering a similar move. The township says that Sandy left them deep in financial throes and that Obamacare costs are simply out of their already limited budget. 

Meanwhile, patients in New Hampshire are seeing their hospital options slashed as a direct result of the new law:

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the only insurer approved to offer policies on the health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, has narrowed to 14 the number of hospitals for the ACA plans that will be offered beginning Oct. 1.  Paula Rogers, the company’s governmental affairs director, said the move was made to reach affordable premium levels.  “We are well aware the concept of a narrow network is new to New Hampshire,” Rogers said. “Do we need 26 hospitals to serve our plan? We decided we didn’t.”  The network for Anthem individual policy holders who do not purchase through the exchange will be limited as well when current policies expire...Critics of the plan said it amounts to rationing health care.  “Now we are not going to have the doctor of our choice, the hospital of our choice or the plan of our choice,” said committee co-chair, Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge.

Not only will New Hampshire residents enrolled in the Obamacare exchange see their hospital choices limited, so will Anthem's individual policy holders at large, just as soon as current policies expire.  So the rationing of options is bleeding over and affecting people in the private market.  Democrats said people would be free to keep their preferred plans.  That's not true. They promised individuals and families could keep their preferred doctor.  They now admit that the firm pledge doesn't necessarily apply anymore.  And now, private policy holders covered by the only Obamacare-approved insurance company in the state of New Hampshire will see their hospital options trimmed down, even if they're not on the exchanges.  Why?  Cost containment by Anthem, as the company prepares for the Obamacare deluge.  Higher premiums and fewer options.  Welcome to Obamacare, America.  I'll leave you with a portion of an email I received from a human resources professional located in Arizona.  She is the benefits specialist at a large manufacturing company with over 1,000 employees, where she administers  health insurance plans.  It seems as though widespread concerns about the qualifications and trustworthiness of Obamacare's so-called "navigators" are very well founded:

Every day is a new freak show when it comes to Obamacare and figuring out exactly what we have to do to comply. Right now we are working on the "employee notice" that every company is tasked with sending out to their employees by September 30th notifying them of the federal healthcare exchange.   We were planning on including info in our notice about the "navigator" that's been hired in [our area] to help people 'navigate' the exchange. But when I looked this person up, I discovered that not only have they not been hired yet, but the non-profit that's hiring them is looking for someone with just a GED that they can pay $29k a year. To *find your health insurance for you.*  Meaning they will be attempting to understand a bill that even the lawmakers who passed it don't.  Additionally, the government is not requiring these people to get background checks, which is truly incredible. (They're going to be handling your tax info, SSN, even past health records.)  If they don't hire someone soon they're not even going to be able to complete the shortened training by October 1.

Readers may recall that the Obamacare overlords just recently cut down the mandatory training regimen for these navigators
by 33 percent.  Is another desperate reduction in the offing?  Back to the correspondence I received:

There's one more issue here as well, which is the employer notice. There is verbiage on that notice that says "even if your employer offers an affordable health plan, you may still qualify for a subsidy." That is simply a lie. And since Obama has now delayed the employer mandate, the feds have no way of knowing whether your employer offers you an affordable plan or not. In other words, they have to take my word for it and I can simply say "my plan is really expensive at work" and get a subsidy. 

Except...the way the law is written, employees who are offered "affordable" care at work are not eligible for subsidies, leading to anti-worker conundrums like this.  Is that rule being rewritten on the fly, as well?  If this verbiage isn't simply an error, one wonders how many additional Americans might receive subsidies from the government thanks to this potential loophole; remember, the anti-fraud eligibility verification process has also been delayed by a year.  How the administration would justify this move (including the inflated price tag) is beyond me, although they've been overtly uninterested in explaining their extra-legal actions in the past.  They just do what they want to do.  The more Americans dependent on the law, no matter how dysfunctional, the harder it becomes to uproot.

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