Part-time employees may actually benefit from Wegmans’ decision, according to Brian Murphy, a partner at Lawley Benefits Group, an insurance brokerage firm in Buffalo.“If you have an employee that qualifies for subsidized coverage, they might be better off going with that than a limited part-time benefit,” Murphy said.That’s because subsidized coverage can have a lower out-of-pocket cost for the insured employee while also providing better benefits than an employer-paid plan.“It’s a win-win. The employee gets subsidized coverage, and the employer gets to lower costs,” Murphy said.
The starkness of this seeming turnabout is a little amusing, but it points to a lot of complex issues. Here’s what’s happening. The Obama administration made an ill-advised promise that if you liked your insurance, you could keep it under the new law. They did this because they knew the law wouldn’t get passed without such a promise. At the time, they and all health care experts of both the left and the right knew that keeping employer-based coverage was a mistake. But planning to move people off employer-based insurance into the exchanges would massively increase the public cost of the law by way of increased subsidies. So they said they were keeping employer-based insurance to both reassure the public and deflate the predicted cost of the law, making it easier to sell to Congress.Now reality has intruded and employers are responding to the incentives in the law by kicking people off insurance and into the exchanges. Whether this was always the intention of the Obama administration is unclear; either way, the Obamacare we are getting is not the Obamacare we debated.In their zeal to oppose the law, Obamacare opponents have seized on the stories of employers dumping insurance as evidence that the ACA is a bad law with “devastating effects”. Given that employer-based insurance has been a bugaboo of conservative wonks for decades, there is something a little hollow about this criticism. The truth is that less employer-based insurance is a good thing, and if conservatives were being consistent they would offer a least some praise for stories like the Wegmans news, albeit tempered with concerns over the haphazard and disorderly way the ACA is forcing people into the exchanges.That being said, if the administration basically intended for the law to work this way—thus exposing the promise President Obama made about keeping your insurance as a lie—then it fits into a troubling pattern: the President seems all too willing to use any end-run he can find around democratic and legislative processes to achieve the outcomes he desires. The NSA scandal, the way he handled the delay of the employer mandate, and now this. For a candidate who was such a vocal critic of the imperial presidency, President Obama has shown himself an exceptionally willing and able practitioner of that governing style.