Universal Orlando will drop health care offering for part-timers, citing ACA

Posted Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:58 PM | Contributed by Avalanche Sam

Universal Orlando plans to stop offering medical insurance to part-time employees beginning next year, a move the resort says has been forced by the federal government's health-care overhaul. The reason: Universal currently offers part-time workers a limited insurance plan that has low premiums but also caps the payout of benefits. Those types of insurance plans — sometimes referred to as "mini-med" plans — will no longer be permitted under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Friday, February 22, 2013 3:16 AM

And these poor part-timers will have to begin paying a penalty come tax time for not having insurance. It wont be much next year, but it will gradually increase each year, and eventually will be a very large burden... Or so I have been told by my tax preparer. No one really knows what this Obamacare thing will do to our country.

I myself have good insurance and a good job. I feel bad for those who will not have insurance though.

Is it too late to delete this unconstitutional crap out of the books?

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Friday, February 22, 2013 3:45 AM

No, those poor part timers will likely end up with a better insurance plan and pay less for it than they do now, courtesy of the exchanges setup through the ACA. They will almost certainly be better off.

I've seen the details of plenty of part-time insurance plans that medium to large companies offer, and they're universally crap. I'm sure Universal's current part-time offerings aren't any better.

That said, shame on the park for being cheap a-holes.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 9:13 AM

These 'poor part timers' have the option of buying insurance. The only thing 'changing' is that it's not going to be offered thru Universal, but they'll have to find their own policy. Like, you know, everyone.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 9:21 AM

All Universal was doing was negotiating a group rate on a lousy healthcare plan and there were only 500 out of "thousands" participating in the current plan. I am curious how much they will end up paying but their healthcare will be better.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 9:32 AM

The insurance companies offering these "plans" will most certainly replace them with uber-high deductible plans that the company can also negotiate a rate on and not subsidize. I think this is story is fishing for an emotional response.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 11:23 AM

The position that I am working at now (and probably about to be laid off from shortly) has a catastrophic health plan which the universtiy pays for. It has a $5000 deductable, but if you need serious surgery it is better than nothing, especially considering that five grand represents the first day in the hospital.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 11:26 AM

I've been making the same suggestion since ACA was finalized thru SCOTUS. Every hour you work, you're employer contributes 2.5% towards their share of your health insurance...eliminates all of the "gaming the system" ideas of cutting hours to avoid paying in to healthcare. Whether an employee works one hour a week or 40, the insurance cost is pro-rated and built-in.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 12:41 PM

There is another unresolved problem here that the PPACA did absolutely nothing to address, but which is really the central problem for these workers...

Yes, you can buy health insurance on your own, but you get rated with the "few" other people who also buy health insurance on their own, so you get to pay the absolute worst rates.

Why does this make sense in any way, shape or form? At my last job, our health insurance premiums suffered because we had cancer patients on staff. Again, why does that make any sense at all? Why are customers not rated in risk pools based on *risk* rather than based on employment? That's what they do for automobile insurance and homeowners insurance: you are rated based on your credit history, driving record, miles traveled, loss ratio, and a host of other factors which have nothing to do with your employer. Why should health insurance be any different?

But for these Universal workers, there is an even more important question: Why does it make any difference *who* buys the health insurance policy? Because if Universal deducts 100% of the cost from the worker's paycheck and buys the worker health insurance, that premium is paid with pre-tax money. But if the worker skips the health insurance, takes the money, then buys the exact same policy from the same vendor for the same price using post-tax wages, that policy premium is NOT tax deductible*. Which means that insurance plan effectively costs the worker about 12%-15% more than if the employer pays the bill.

How does that make sense? If health insurance premiums are supposed to be tax-deductible, why aren't they?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

*The portion of the premium combined with other medical expenses which exceeds about 7% of the worker's adjusted gross income is deductible, but there is no deduction for expenses which do not exceed the 7% limit. Why not make the premiums and eligible medical expenses 100% deductible with that deduction subjected to a cap?

--DCAjr

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Friday, February 22, 2013 1:01 PM

Actually, under the old system (current for a little longer) at least in Ohio, if you get individual insurance you are individually rated. I have it, and it's pretty cheap--no health issues in the family (and a high-deductible plan).

The screwy tax issue are a good point.

"Why should health insurance be any different?"

I think the people in favor of PPACA have been screaming reasons for years--have you not been paying attention? :-)

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Friday, February 22, 2013 2:35 PM

Of interest is that my employers health plan has remained pretty low because we are a fairly healthy bunch. They reimburse us $20 per month for exercise related expenses and we have a shower and bicycle parking in the garage.

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Monday, February 25, 2013 2:03 AM

Jeff said:

The insurance companies offering these "plans" will most certainly replace them with uber-high deductible plans that the company can also negotiate a rate on and not subsidize.



To be fair, these plans almost universally have super high deductibles already, at least considering the pay rate of those using them. Having a $2,500 deductible for someone making minimum wage pretty much already makes it a "catastrophic-only" plan, and even then it's unlikely they'll even make their deductible. Not arguing that the deductibles can't go higher, because they certainly could, but I'm doubtful they'd ever recover much of that money.

RideMan said:

Yes, you can buy health insurance on your own, but you get rated with the "few" other people who also buy health insurance on their own, so you get to pay the absolute worst rates.

It's been a while since I've looked up the numbers, but the exchanges that will be set up for individuals to purchase through have caps on both premiums and deductibles to keep things affordable for those buying them. I want to say the premiums max out at something like 2.5% of your pay or $600 annually (whichever number is higher.) I also know there are certain minimums the providers must meet, such as no lifetime caps and no denial for pre-existing conditions.

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Monday, February 25, 2013 10:01 AM

$600 for a year of health insurance? Wow, do you have an eye-opening experience coming! (Unless you're talking about a low-income case where the vast majority of the cost is covered by the taxpayers.)

I read an article about the new law recently, and it said you could go to the Massachusetts site to see what the "future holds" as they already have an exchange there.

https://www.mahealthconnector.org/portal/site/connector

(Look up a zip code for Mass and you can see your prices.)

So I did. Cheapest plan for my family of 4 was over $900 a month. I didn't dig into the details, but it looked like that plan also had a $10k deductible.

It's also nearly 3 times what I currently pay.

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Monday, February 25, 2013 10:56 AM

2.5% of your pay or $600 annually (whichever number is higher.)

I'm not sure what the numbers are either now that I don't deal with medicaid in that way, but to answer your questions, re-read what he's saying. Obviously if $600 is more than 2.5% of your annual pay, then that's what you pay, but 2.5% of my annual pay is higher than $600 and that's what I'd pay.

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Monday, February 25, 2013 11:28 AM

And as I stated, those numbers ($600) have nothing to do with the cost of the insurance--that would only be a low-income case where the cost is heavily subsidised. If you think a family who makes $100k is only expected to pay $2500/year (2.5% of 100k), you also have an eye-opening experience coming! (My example Mass. plan was over $11k, and I don't see anything that would prevent the $100k family from paying that or much more.)

I don't know where the 2.5% came from, so I didn't address it. But I understand the subsidy will be based on a sliding scale--up to 400% of the poverty level where I see 9.5% of one's income is the max. I would guess the 2.5% would be somewhere between poverty level and the 400% mark, but again, the point of my post was the costs mentioned were no where near the real costs of the product.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:29 AM

Ok, so the 2.5% or $600 thing actually comes from the maximum tax penalty you can be hit with if you don't buy any insurance plan. However, the relevant bit that I was citing from this article:

The annual penalty is capped at an amount roughly equal to the cost of the national average premium for a qualified health plan

If I'm reading that correctly, it is stating that you can expect to pay roughly 2.5% if you purchase a plan from one of the new exchanges. That's not to say your employer provided plan won't cost you more, because it probably will. It almost certainly already does.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 9:30 AM

Ahh, I see the problem--a misleading article. It is true the law says the penalty can't be higher than the policy cost, as you quoted. This is the cap--but it doesn't start at the cap, it starts low and ramps up. Your numbers represent a penalty in the early years, far below the cost of a policy, and also far below the cap.

But there is a cap on how much any household will owe: according to the law the tax cannot exceed the national average premium for “bronze level” health plans offered through exchanges. These bronze plans will cover 60 percent of medical expenses, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that in 2016 the average premium would be about $4,750 for single policies and $12,250 for family policies.

http://www.healthbeatblog.com/2012/08/the-affordable-care-acts-penalty-if-you-dont-buy-health-insurance-in-2014how-much-will-you-pay/

These are more reasonable numbers, but I'd be surprised if they don't end up being on the low side.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:35 AM

Read that article again. The cap you mention is for the exceptionally wealthy, where 2.5% of your income would be more than the cost of a plan. It also states that 2.5% is as high as it will go (in 2016) after it ramps up from 1% in 2014.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:45 AM

It is true the penalty for lower income folks is less than the cap, but you're still making this huge jump that you'll be able to buy insurance for that amount.

I've given you a real example from the Mass. exchange, and I've given you an estimate from the CBO on what the exchange plans will cost.

Look at this chart showing subsidized premiums for the poor:

http://www.communitycatalyst.org/doc_store/publications/Affordability_in_ACA.pdf

These are subsidized premiums, mind you, and show the part expected to be paid by the subsidized family (of 3 in this case).

They range from 3.3% of income for the heavily subsidized family making 133% of poverty level, to 9.5% at 400% poverty level.

So even this subsidized group is expected to pay more(up to almost 4 times more) than your 2.5%.

Do you really think the average family making $100,000 will be able to buy health insurance for $2500, when even the CBO says it will be over $12k?

Last edited by Lankster, Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:46 AM
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 9:10 AM

Having shopped around, a typical high-deductible plan for a family of three (maybe four) is about $500/month. While not $12k a year, it's still half that.

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