Posted by Jeff Gallagher
Ever since the demise of Tweetdeck, I have been searching for an adequate replacement that would allow me to peruse all of my social media accounts in one place. So far, there has been nothing on the horizon. Twitter bought Tweetdeck, arguably the best interface for social media, and proceeded to cut off access from all other social media sources such as Facebook. That left a bunch of us in the wailing and gnashing of teeth for lunch bunch.
I continue to search for an adequate replacement and have sort of found one in FlipBook. It still leaves a lot to be desired, however (like, timeliness of posts). In the meantime, I have joined the unwashed masses and use the “regular” interfaces for Twitter and FB. Oh, the pain…
Anyway, I digress.
It seems my good friend, Dan Chmielewski over at The Liberal OC, posted an interesting Facebook article on the Affordable Care Act the other day. Like many of you, I have been a bit confused on what to expect from Obamacare. Compounded by the fact that California has taken a lead position on the upcoming law, we sit on the eve of a new age – or, destruction, depending on how you look at it.
Now, Trader Joe’s, a favorite hangout of mine, has taken to the Washington Post to give us all a simple explanation of how ACA will work for the masses.
Sara Kliff writes a column for the Washington Post. She recently posted a couple of articles regarding Trader Joe’s announcement they would end healthcare benefits for some part-time employees. Instead, they would receive a $500 stipend and directions to the new public insurance marketplaces to help them buy low cost insurance. Wow, is that cold or what?
Well, not according to TJ’s.
Contrary to popular belief, there are still private sector jobs out there that offer healthcare benefits as a way of attracting and retaining good employees (there are still private pension plans out there as well but, that’s another story). Employers often see the added benefit of having a healthy workforce that takes fewer sick days off. Employers, in most cases, also receive a side benefit in taxes and other financial incentives from group purchase of insurance. So, how can cutting people from the company insurance plan help?
No one will argue these are trying financial times. And, although the country is recovering from the worst depression this country has had, it is still far from robust. Jobs are still hard to find and those that do find jobs are often faced with fewer choices in insurance and pensions, both of which are expensive benefits to offer employees.
According to one article by Kliff, the basis for ACA is to provide insurance to those who could not afford it on their own, making it mandatory for Americans to have insurance as a way of keeping costs down (hence, the “affordable” part).
The insurance market under Obamacare, in other words, is supposed to be a friendlier one than what exists right now. And that’s what Trader Joe’s seems to be betting on with its move: that its workers will see similar options without the grocery store footing the full bill.
Whether this will be true is hard to game out at this point. The Huffington Post did talk to one Trader Joe’s worker who estimated that she earned about $20,000 and currently pays $70 a month for a pretty robust health plan. Trader Joe’s plans to kick in $500 for each employee, or about $40 per month. So we’re looking at a total of $110 to spend on the marketplace each month, if spending holds to the same level as what Trader Joe’s workers pay right now.
Interestingly, as we approach “D-day” for the launch of the insurance marketplace in California, it seems that affordable insurance will be a reality. Kliff notes that Kaiser is touting sub $100 a month premiums for a young person making $20,000 a year. That seems to jibe with Governor Jerry Brown’s predictions under the Covered California.
So, what about TJ’s apparent employee dumping? One commenter on Dan’s FB page compared it to Wal Mart in how they approach the issue of employee healthcare. That’s really comparing apples to oranges, though. Where Trader Joe’s is looking to find a compromise that will not harm their employees (have you ever seen an unhappy TJ’s employee?), Wal Mart has literally pushed their employees into lining up for public benefits such as food stamps and welfare. Where TJ’s has respect for their employees and seeks to cut costs while maintaining benefits, Wal Mart actively seeks to lower the standard of living for their employees while forcing the Feds to take responsibility for them. How’s that for a corporate philosphy?
Interestingly, CNBC ran a blurb on their All American Economic Survey that showed the majority of the 800 respondents were not in favor of defunding Obamacare with or without a
government shutdown. From CNBC:
Opposition to defunding increases sharply when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included. In that case, Americans oppose defunding 59 percent to 19 percent, with 18 percent of respondents unsure. The final 4 percent is a group of people who want to defund Obamacare, but become unsure when asked if they still hold that view if it means shutting down the government.
The numbers don’t change much, according to CNBC, when you break it down male/female or among the middle of the road conservatives and liberals. As one would expect, it is only in the extreme Tea Party/GOP ranks that the numbers in favor of defunding become significant, meaning that more mainstream Americans are becoming comfortable with the idea of government involvement in the general public’s healthcare.
Funny how it was reported the House and Senate members were lining up for free physicals, presumably, in anticipation of the shutdown. Contrary to popular belief, Legislators have the same healthplan offered to any Federal worker. It has actually been praised as a model for healthcare and one that Obama looked to for ideas on ACA. Sorry, their pension plan is also the same and retiring members don’t get a windfall when they retire.
So, as ACA falls upon us, are employers like Trader Joe’s going to be the norm? It is clear they value their employees as much as they value their customers who will reap the benefit of any cost savings they can manage by managing their employees benefits. While many questions about ACA have been answered, one question remains: If Kaiser can offer such low insurance rates unde ACA, why couldn’t they do so on their own?