October 9, 2014

Walmart: Save Money. Dump Health Insurance.

The nation’s largest private employer is rolling back insurance coverage for part-time employees.

More “truth or consequences” this week from Barack Obama’s so-called “Affordable Care Act.” As it turns out, his signature health care boondoggle offers neither patient protection nor affordability.

Walmart announced it is dropping health insurance for nearly 30,000 part-time employees – moving them into ObamaCare. Other large retailers, Target, Home Depot and Walgreen, have already dropped coverage for part-time employees. The nation’s largest private employer also put its full-time employees on notice that their share of insurance premiums is going to be higher as a result of ObamaCare mandates.

It’s no small irony that in 2009, Walmart enthusiastically endorsed ObamaCare. In a letter to the president, Walmart explained, “We are for shared responsibility. Not every business can make the same contribution, but everyone must make some contribution. We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage, but any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry-level employees.”

How very egalitarian of them. But could it be that from the get-go, Walmart was only looking for ways to avoid “shared responsibility”? In 2012, Walmart quietly announced plans to cease offering health insurance to newly hired part-time employees clocking in fewer than 30 hours a week. On top of that, part-time workers hired during or after 2011 would face an “Annual Benefits Eligibility Check,” with the accompanying risk of losing health insurance. And now, the company is taking the inevitable further step and simply dropping employee coverage to avoid higher costs.

So much for “shared responsibility.” Turns out, business logic overruled rhetoric because, at the end of the day, it makes more fiscal sense for businesses to stop coverage and funnel employees directly into the government exchange. In fact, that was one aim of ObamaCare all along.

In 2010, among other Democrats sounding the alarm, former Tennessee Governor Philip Bredesen, who lorded over his state’s failing TennCare version of ObamaCare, forewarned, “Because of the magnitude of the new subsidies created by Congress, the economics become compelling for many employers to simply drop coverage and help their employees obtain replacement coverage through an exchange.” He added, “Perhaps this is a miscalculation by the Congress, perhaps not.” We in our humble shop will go with “perhaps not.”

As late as last year, former Washington Post “Wonkblog” editor Ezra Klein and others discounted warnings that companies would drop insurance coverage. According to Klein, “Employers offer health insurance because employees demand it. If you’re an employer who doesn’t offer insurance and your competitors do, you’ll lose out on the most talented workers. An employer who stopped offering health benefits would see his best employees immediately start looking for other jobs.”

Alas, this promise is akin to Obama’s oft-repeated assurance, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”

Walmart employees aren’t the only ones suffering from the fallout. Recent reports show that 30,000 people in New Mexico are about to lose their health care plans, 14,000 in Kentucky, 800 in Alaska, and as many as 250,000 in Virginia – all directly because of ObamaCare. There will be many more to come, but not a peep of distress from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, because this feeds more people into the federal system, which is exactly what Obama wants.

Aside from the downright hypocrisy, Walmart is simply taking the path of logical business sense. Indeed, companies including Target, Trader Joe’s and Home Depot have done the same.

But the reality is, for all its abysmal failures – skyrocketing costs, fewer choices in doctors, lost coverage, and on and on – ObamaCare is doing exactly what it was designed to do: break the old system, send the government in to gather the pieces, and sweep Americans into a single-payer, government-run health system. Then, “If you like your plan, you can keep it” will become, “Even if you hate your plan, you can’t get rid of it.”

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