Darden: We have to cancel health insurance for 1,000 part-timers because of ObamaCare

Last year, Darden Restaurants raised the ire of progressives when it toyed with the idea of eliminating most of its full-time employment for its hundreds of locations in order to avoid the high costs of ObamaCare compliance.  Darden later rejected the idea, but most probably didn’t know that the chain offered low-cost health insurance to its part-time employees — or at least they did. Darden announced today that they will have to cancel that insurance thanks to the coverage mandates of ObamaCare, a decision which will send 1,000 employees into the Healthcare.gov exchanges that aren’t functioning now:

Starting in 2015, Obamacare will require large companies to offer insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours a week. Darden said that has always been the threshold for its insurance plan, but it had allowed about 1,000 workers who fell under to stay covered. Now that state health-insurance exchanges are available under Obamacare, Darden said those workers have other options. Darden said many might end up paying less under the exchanges if they qualify for government subsidies.

Darden said in an email some workers may be able to rack up more than 30 hours next year “when the needs of the business and that individual’s availability align.”

Darden will no longer offer part-timers limited-benefit insurance because Obamacare forbids it. Darden said it will offer other programs to part-timers such as a bundle of discounts on prescriptions, and cash payments for services such as doctor’s visits.

They might pay less for premiums, but they’re going to pay more overall.  That’s because the so-called bronze plans that cost the least still are more expensive for most applicants even with the scalable subsidies, and also because deductibles will likely be much higher than Darden employees had under their employer plan. That means that those consumers will have to spend thousands of more dollars than they did in previous years before their insurance benefits kick in at all.  For those working part-time, that will take a particularly vicious bite out of their disposable income.

Those formerly-covered part-timers won’t find the exchanges any more friendly.  Consumer Reports warns its subscribers to avoid the site altogether for at least a month (emphasis mine, via Gateway Pundit):

Frustrated by trying to register on HealthCare.gov? You’re hardly alone. Of the 9.47 million people who tried to register in the first week, only 271,00 were able to create an account, according to one analysis. That’s about 1 in 35. Many people couldn’t even create user names and passwords. For tips on how to get past the roadblocks, we talked with a Phoenix software tester named Ben Simo. When he got stuck trying to register a family member, Simo used his professional know-how to look beneath the hood and come up with some suggestions for creating a Healthcare.gov user account that actually works. …

If all this is too much for you to absorb, follow our previous advice: Stay away from Healthcare.gov for at least another month if you can. Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess they’ve made. The coverage available through the marketplaces won’t begin until Jan. 1, 2014, at the earliest, and you have until Dec. 15 to enroll if you need insurance that starts promptly.

Even HHS seems have thrown in the towel. Its website has a new feature.  See if you can guess what it is?


They’re making the “apply by phone” option a lot more prominent, part of the “consumer-friendly changes” to the site from the weekend.  But that’s about as friendly as it gets, per Politico:

Health and Human Services officials announced Sunday that consumer-friendly changes have been made to the homepage of the troubled Obamacare enrollment website.

The changes to the homepage aim to relieve some user frustration — but it isn’t a wider fix to the buggy and crash-plagued signup system. …

The changes will give people more information and options up front without having to wrestle with the flawed online process. It gives more information about health plan choices and provides clearer instructions on how to download a paper application, get through by telephone or find someone to assist in person.

It’s not a fix at all, since the call centers have to use the same unworkable computer system as consumers do on line.  After two weekends down, the only improvement is that consumers can fill out applications by hand. Looks like HHS reads Consumer Reports.