The next wave of ObamaCare insurance cancellations is under way, flying largely under the national media radar... until Wal-Mart announced it would be dropping coverage for all its part-time employees. The Associated Press reports:
Starting Jan. 1, Wal-Mart told The Associated Press that it will no longer offer health insurance to employees who work less than an average of 30 hours a week. The move, which would affect 30,000 employees, follows similar decisions by Target, Home Depot and others to eliminate health insurance benefits for part-time employees.
"We had to make some tough decisions," Sally Wellborn, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of benefits, told The Associated Press.
Wellborn says the company will use a third-party organization to help part-time workers find insurance alternatives: "We are trying to balance the needs of (workers) as well as the costs of (workers) as well as the cost to Wal-Mart."
The announcement comes after Wal-Mart said far more U.S. employees and their families are enrolling in its health care plans than it had expected following rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Wal-Mart, which employs about 1.4 million full- and part-time U.S. workers, says about 1.2 million Wal-Mart workers and family members combined now participate in its health care plan.
That has had an impact on Wal-Mart's bottom line. Wal-Mart now expects the impact of higher health care costs to be about $500 million for the current fiscal year, or about $170 million higher than the original estimate of about $330 million that it gave in February.
But Wal-Mart is among the last of its peers to cut health insurance for some part-time workers. In 2013, 62 percent of large retail chains didn't offer health care benefits to any of its part-time workers, according to Mercer, a global consulting company. That's up from 56 percent in 2009.
Yay! Six percent fewer part-time employees have coverage because of ObamaCare! That's quite an "achievement," especially since the primary result of Barack Obama's economic plans has been the wholesale conversion of full-time jobs to part-time positions. An America full of people who work hard, but don't make enough money to take care of their needs, dependent on an insolvent corporatist program that will soon collapse into a single-payer black hole for their health care? What's not to like, if you're a dishonest socialist?
Let us pause once more to remember that President Barack Obama loudly, clearly, and repeatedly promised that nothing like this would ever happen, and anyone who (accurately) warned otherwise was a fearmonger who just wanted poor people to die. ObamaCare remains the biggest con job ever pulled on the American people, dwarfing Bernie Madoff's financial misadventures by several orders of magnitude.
And the hell of it is, the people telling all these lies, jacking up insurance premiums across the land, and blowing health care plans to smithereens love to congratulate themselves on their compassion. They really care, you see... unless you're one of the designated losers in their scheme to have the government pick winners. In that case, your travails count for nothing. Not only is your suffering meaningless, but they'll attack you as a selfish counter-revolutionary for even daring to mention it. No American politician is so callous as a "compassionate" left-winger confronted by someone who got the fuzzy end of a Big Government lollipop.
An article at the Daily Caller last week estimated 50,000 insurance cancellations during October, and there was no mention of Wal-Mart in that projection: 30,000 in New Mexico, 14,000 in Kentucky, 2,000 each in Tennessee and Colorado, a few hundred in Alaska. Only 27 states took President Obama up on his offer to ignore the law and issue multi-year extensions for non-ACA-compliant plans. The fallout varies by region, with states such as Maine and North Carolina reporting few cancellations... but that's not much comfort to the people getting hit by cancellation bombs in the other states, is it? Manipulating the balance of suffering is what this whole scheme is about, in every particular, from canceled insurance policies to increased premiums and taxpayer subsidies. Some suffer, while others benefit. It doesn't even matter if the losers outnumber the winners, provided the losers can be told they have no recourse because "it's the settled law of the land" and shoved in a closet to weep in private.
Likewise, the people who get stuck paying for all of this won't be invited onstage at any Democrat political rallies. Business owners wrestling with the mad complexities of the unread and incomplete Affordable Care Act get no sympathy at all. The Wall Street Journal profiled one such small businessman, grocery entrepreneur Tommy Cain:
The clock is ticking for Tommy Cain and thousands of other U.S. employers facing deadlines to make changes to the health insurance they offer their employees under the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Cain has already met one of the law's key requirements: offer health insurance to at least 70% of full-time staffers by 2015, or face penalties.
Back in January, he put a no-frills plan in place for his 250 employees. His Gulf Coast grocery chain offers to pay 60% of premiums costs, deducting $25 weekly from the paychecks of those who opt for the coverage.
But his dilemma now is figuring out whether that plan is affordable to those employees, as required under the law. The cost cannot exceed more than 9.5% of employees' annual salaries, the law says.
With just three months to go before 2015, Mr. Cain is worried that he will be penalized next year if the plan doesn't meet the technical standard.
In other words, he's going to get socked with a fine for committing a "crime" that did not exist in the much more liberated America of 2009. And paying the fine might be the logical course of action, as the Journal says a number of the small businesses it's been tracking have concluded:
A minority of business owners are considering trimming their head counts below the 50 full-time-worker cutoff or reducing their workers' hours rather than comply with the requirement, which begins in January for companies with 100 or more employees.
Others have run the numbers and concluded that their best financial move is simply to skip the requirement and instead pay penalties, $2,000 for each full-time worker after the first 30.
Why is this considered acceptable for any number of law-abiding people who "worked hard and played by the rules," only to become designated losers when the Affordable Care Act slithered off Capitol Hill? Why is it OK for the commissars of ObamaCare to constantly lie to the American people about what's going on, to this very day, in an effort to keep the suckers oblivious until they get clobbered? The Washington Post reports that the Department of Health and Human Services is facing a lawsuit from a former Administration health official for "improperly hiding health insurers' requested rate increases from the public - in violation of the Affordable Care Act":
States are generally charged with reviewing health insurers' proposed rate increases, but HHS conducts reviews for several states that don't have an effective review program. HHS hasn't lived up to its obligation to make the rate filings available before they take effect so the public has a chance to comment on them, according to the lawsuit.
With six weeks until the next enrollment period opens, the department still hasn't made any of the filings for 2015 health plans public, according to the lawsuit from Mehri & Skalet attorney Jay Angoff, who used to oversee ACA implementation for HHS. The lawsuit claims that HHS hasn't made any of the filings public in past years either as required by the department's own regulations.
This is particularly problematic, Angoff said, in states have taken a hands-off approach to regulating Obamacare within their borders, such as Texas and Oklahoma. But some other states have lax rate review programs and would benefit from the disclosure from the federal government, he said.
"Allowing the public to see not just the rate itself but the justification, the assumption companies make on which the rate is based, is something that can only have a pro-competitive effect in the market," said Angoff, also a former insurance regulator in Missouri. "The only way those rates are likely to come down is if the rate filing justifications are made public."
Which gives you some idea of why those justifications aren't being made public. We've been kept in the dark every step of the way on ObamaCare, from President Obama's false promises, to the back rooms where last-minute deals were cut to win support, through the colossal failure of the HealthCareDotGov system launch, to enrollment reports that suddenly dried up once the numbers started going down, to the insurance cancellations and premium increases coming our way. The cost estimates were a fantasy, because even with Democrat control of Congress, the Affordable Care Act probably wouldn't have passed with an honest accounting. The amount of money spent, and bureaucratic costs imposed, are wildly out of proportion to the modest gains in insurance coverage we've seen. There are better ways to achieve the desired result of increased coverage. It's growing difficult to imagine a worse one.
But those are not hugely important considerations if you happen to be one of the designated winners, or someone who accepts that the ends of ObamaCare were so urgent that its means are nearly irrelevant. It's hard to create a trillion-dollar program that nobody likes. But even the argument that such programs are successful if winners outnumber losers is false; the purpose of constitutional government is to protect the law-abiding from the depredations of those convinced they know what is best for everyone. ObamaCare can hardly claim that winners outnumber losers, so the fallback defense is that the winners really like it, and the losers should shut up - or, if you're pushing 75, consider dropping dead to relieve the stress on the system, according to ObamaCare architect Zeke Emmanuel.
As with so much of American politics these days, the pretense of ObamaCare is superior management (stop laughing!) to harness the energies of society in supporting the will of the people. In practice, it's about political aggression and the suppression of dissent - the Ruling Class and its favorites taking what they want, and convincing everyone else that resistance is futile. That's how a nation is diminished enough to accept that a new feature of Big Government is unacceptable, impractical... and immortal.