Friday, November 22, 2013

The Effects of Obamacare: Confusion and Insecurity

Recently my company sent a representative to my place of employment and set up a meeting with us. In this meeting we were informed that, effective January 1st, if an employee did not meet a required work year of 1,560 hours, he or she would be reclassified as a part time employee. We would not only lose all insurances but also lose the ability to accrue sick and vacation time. Also, in an effort "to do the right thing", our company is going to give us a one time raise which is supposed to be the equivalent of the value of that sick/vacation time, given outside the normal 1-3% annual raise. I am not sure how that will work out or even if their commitment will be fulfilled honestly because a confusing equation is being applied to ascertain what "the value of this time means to me."

Now, I do work 40 hour weeks, but it is only when the school year is in session. I am considered a seasonal worker. Each year there are roughly 6 weeks when the business is shut down entirely. During the summer I do try to work as much as I can, when work is much slower, however this year my employer was unable to give me enough hours to earn a living. It seemed to me that management was trying to keep labor costs to an extreme minimum in an effort to boost bonuses. For the past five years I have always been able to work sufficient hours during this slow time, now suddenly hours were cut dramatically. As a consequence, I will not have accumulated enough hours to meet the minimum requirements to remain a full-time employee and will be on the chopping block to lose my family's insurance- not only health, but dental, vision, and disability as well. I wonder, is there some correlation between an obvious move by management and the new rules of The Affordable Care Act?

My family and I have been shocked by the effects of Obamacre. We have always had good insurance, comparable to the policies that hospitals themselves provide for their employers. We have taken comfort in knowing that even though paying the premiums are quite a monthly expense, it is very much worth it to have the peace of mind that my family always receives the best health care available.

On Friday, November 1, 2013 New York Times writers Katie Thomas and Reed Abelson headline with this issue reporting three situations where individuals are being "forced out of their existing health insurance plans." In the article they quote the President in 2010 referencing The Affordable Health Care Act with saying "If you like your insurance plan you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn't happened yet. It won't happen in the future." My family is an example, like thousands of others, who will lose our insurance and be thrown into a vortex of confusion and uncertainty. Then what? The security we now have with my entire family under one policy will be eroded. And the worst part is that we are not given any options. Since our family is on the lower wage scale, we will be forced to take whatever plan the government chooses. It is not our decision. This is very frustrating, to put it mildly.

So, it should be easy to see that we are livid about the changes brought to our lives because of Obamacare. I believe a very important freedom has been stripped from us because we did not choose to drop our insurance nor are we able to decide even what the new changes will be. I do understand that with every new policy enacted someone has to be negatively affected. But in this case, why can we not shop our options? My family is in a rat race to get as much treatment as we can before the end of the year because we have no idea who our new doctors, dentist, or pediatricians will be. The people we have grown to know and love over the past 20 plus years will more than likely no longer be a part of our lives. This is scary and very worrisome. It takes away our faith in our government and creates an air of uncertainty about the future.

I am absolutely certain, however, that the company I work for loves the changes brought about by The Affordable Care Act. Using figures which I apply to my own family as a base model, for every employee they do not have to provide insurance, this will save them $15,000 a year on average. Multiply that by the 15,000 employees who will be affected by these changes and annually my company will save $225 million. Although I am told that this money will be put back into permanent insurance policies, I fail to believe that there will not be a huge revenue surplus. I can envision upper management salivating over those figures because those huge savings will convert into huge bonuses. Although it would never be spoken out loud, I am apt to believe that the more employees a manger can kick off the insurance, the greater the bonus. I am calling The Affordable Care Act a "Corporate Gold Rush" for just this reason. To exacerbate the situation further, it is my understanding as well, the government did not make any written mandates that a company was required to eliminate sick and vacation time. This was a move by my company to piggy back more money saving policies to a mandated policy. Pretty much like "pork" is added to a Senate bill.

We do not know exactly how our lives will be changed by The Affordable Care Act over the next year. What we do know is that we feel very confused because there are too many unanswered questions and absolutely no game plan for us in January. The probability that there will be a gap in our insurance seems pretty eminent. God forbid anything should happen to us during this gap period because we will be uninsured. When we do get a policy or policies, will it be cheaper than our rates now or will it be too expensive? Will the coverage be the same? We do not know. For us, the security we have worked so hard to achieve will be taken from us with the stroke of a politician's pen.

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