The Right Opinion

How's That Obamacare Waiver Workin' Out for Ya?

By Michelle Malkin · Nov. 16, 2012

Exactly two years ago this week, the Obama administration announced it had issued more than 100 waivers en masse to a select group of companies, unions and other health insurance providers seeking relief from the onerous federal health care law. The Obamacare waiver winner's club now totals 2,000. Where are they now?

Answer: In the same miserable boat as every other unlucky business struggling with the crushing costs and burdens of the mandate.

Among the first and most prominent recipients of the Obamacare waivers for favors were large restaurant chains that provide low-wage, seasonal and part-time workers with low-cost health insurance plans called “mini-med” plans. An estimated 1.7 million workers benefit from such plans. Obamacare forced companies carrying such coverage to raise their minimum limits on coverage to no less than $750,000 annually. Another Obamacare provision forces all employers to spend at least 80 percent to 85 percent of their premium revenue on medical care.

The social justice Democrats' goal was to dictate insurance provider spending not just on coverage amounts, but also on executive salaries, marketing and other costs. The regulation punished companies with mini-med plans whose high administrative costs were due to frequent worker turnover and relatively low spending on claims – not “greed.” Complying with the provision would have meant tens of thousands of low-income workers would lose their benefits altogether.

Darden Restaurants, the Florida-based parent company of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster and other chains, was a member of the Obamacare waiver early bird special. Their get-out-of-Obamacare card helped spare the company's health insurance benefits for nearly 34,000 employees. Breathing a sigh of relief that it would allow chains to continue offering all employees access to affordable health insurance, Darden said in a statement in the fall of 2010 that “the waiver allows us to continue to do that as the various phases of the health care law are implemented.”

Fast-forward to 2012. Darden announced last month that it would begin shifting full-time workers to part-time status to save money, cut health costs and circumvent Obamacare's coverage mandate scheduled for full implementation in 2014. The move would reduce full-time employees' hours to less than 30 hours a week; part-time workers are exempt from the insurance mandate. McDonald's, another big Obamacare waiver recipient, is considering the same move.

In fact, a survey of members of the Chain Restaurant Compensation Association (CRCA) conducted last year by Hay Group reported that a whopping 77 percent of “quick serve” restaurant operators said they were considering reducing employee hours to change their status from full-time to part-time. At least one Denny's restaurant franchise owner in Florida is cutting hours and has openly contemplated an Obamacare surcharge. Jimmy John's and Papa John's are also slashing work hours. Applebee's is mulling a freeze on both hiring and expansion.

“There's no such thing as a free lunch” is a race-neutral truth. But economically illiterate Obama supporters have now called for boycotts of these businesses and accused them of vengeful “racism” against the president. Instead of sympathy and gratitude for private businesses trying to do right by their workers, customers and shareholders, the corporate-bashers inundated Twitter this week with profanity-laced condemnations of the restaurant service industry. One protester tweeted: “@Applebees Your CEO is a racist piece of (redacted), he not hiring because Obama was elected…U WILL LOSE CUSTOMERS.”

“Red Lobster, Olive Garden (are) using Obama re-election as an excuse to deny employees benefits and living wages,” Jon Marquis fumed.

Twitter user Daphine Walker sent unhinged, ungrammatical messages to Red Lobster and Olive Garden in all-caps: “I WILL NEVER SPEND ANOTHER CENT ON THIS RACIST COMPANY WHO DOESNT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THEIR EMPLOYEES.”

The CEO of Red Lobster and Olive Garden is black. But no matter. Regardless of the actual facts, economic realities and entirely predictable and inevitable consequences of command-and-control government mandates, it's always about identity politics for the Obama grievance mob. In good times and bad, the left never grants waivers from the race card.



d.w.hudson in Michigan said:

Well said, Mac! Any idiot who voted for Obama and other democrats and then has the gall to lament the increased taxes and regulations, shortened working hours, inflation, falling dollar, and increasing deficit and debt can expect in return a sympathetic, heartfelt "Shove it, you moron! You voted for it."

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Dave in Raleigh, NC said:

First, I'm a Republican and believe Obamacare is really going to be difficult for companies to manage. Especially small businesses with just over 50 employees, businesses that actually pay their people a decent wage for the work the do. I do however find this Olive Garden, Applebees thing ridiculous. The fact that these companies are saying this will put them in the red is an argument that has no leg to stand on. Not only are these companies large enough to offer insurance already at a low rate, but a majority of their employees are young and not high risk. How many obese or 70 year old waitresses have you seen? Not only that, but these people are in food service. They get below minimum wage, about $2 an hour. How is this possibly going to hurt them? It surely won't put them out of business. Honestly, it'd be a much bigger deal to the food industry if it were like Europe and they not only had to pay more tax for health insurance but also pay these guys $9 an hour.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Dave in Raleigh, NC replied:

Also, as a side, if these owners push this reduction in hours policy too much I could see backlash from the workers. It wouldn't take a genius to come up with a union for these workers that would span across all type of food service. You start having your cooks and servers go on strike you'd see a change in this mindset real quick.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Pete G. in MS replied:

With the competition the way it is in this industry the profit margin is razor thin. Any increased costs must be passed along to the consumer. If that makes the venture uncompetitive or unprofitable the only other option is to close down.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 4:10 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

The only people in food service who make less than minimum wage are waiters and waitresses. The last time I checked they make $2.15 an hour plus tips. These companies are in business to make money and anything that harms their bottom line will be dealt with in the companies and their stockholders, if any, favor. I am not saying its right, just a simple fact of life.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 11:18 AM

pete in CA replied:

Sarge, $2.15 may be what they are paid in GA, but here in CA, and in many other places, they are paid $10-12 per hour. When I was in San Francisco I started at $18 per hour.

And they all pull the "$2.15 underpaid" whine looking for more tips.

PS. My brother started at UAL at SFO for $13.07 per hour - per union contract - even though he'd been an A&P for nearly 30 years.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

pete in CA replied:

Dave, the more money they save on insurance the less deductions they will have at tax time. Businesses pay one way or the other.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Mindblown in Flyover USA replied:

Dave, The problem with your argument re: low rate insurance is that Obamacare does NOT allow them to continue that coverage. The company MUST provide the specific benefits required by Obamacare. They can afford insurance now because there is competition among insurance companies and differing levels of benefits available.

Remember when your health insurance didn't pay for every sneeze or pill? It was called "major medical" and covered major expenses -- surgery, injury, major illnesses, emergencies -- not office visits, flu shots, etc. People actually had a choice individually about their coverage and also a choice of doctors, hospitals, labs, etc.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:33 PM

richard ryan in Lamar,Missouri replied:

BNgranny, thanks for stating the facts about Obamacare v regular insurance. I was wondering if anyone would point out the difference. I salute you for your understanding of the problem. I was in the insurance business for 36 years and you are right on.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 5:05 PM

BJ in St. Cloud, MN said:

Dave in Raleigh,
no one has the right to tell these companies how to run their business. Period! If my employees don't like how I run my businesses they can leave
and if my customers don't like the prices I set they can also not let the door hit them on the way out. It starts the same way every time with govt and govt lackeys. "We only want a little govt help" "somebody should do something" "that's not fair" Fair for who? Government by mandate in the Constitution is not supposed to be:in my bedroom, my school, my church, my business, or my doctors office. The govt is supposed to have few and ENUMERATED powers.


Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1:26 PM



Friday, November 16, 2012 at 3:29 PM

pete in CA said:

The people were given a choice between two pilots to fly their families:

One was 60 years old and looks it, scored in the top 5% of all his tests, and has 58,000 hours as PIC (pilot in charge).

The other is 23 years old, good looking and talks good airplane talk. He barely passed his tests, had to take some a number of times to pass them, and has 2,000 hours total - barely enough to qualify for his ATP.

We all know the sad outcome of that choice.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:13 PM