WHNT in Alabama brings us another example of the law of unintended consequences. Widows of former Madison County employees had continued health-insurance coverage thanks to the self-insurance policies carried by Madison County — or at least they did until January 1. The imposition of ObamaCare coverage mandates forced the county to drop its coverage or pay an additional $25 million a year. The end result? Widows got kicked out of their coverage (via Daniel Halper at TWS):
The widows who were dropped in January had always been covered under the county’s old self-insured health care plan. But officials told WHNT News 19 that the program had to be abandoned when they were informed that new mandates in Obamacare would amount to an extra $25 million per year, money that Madison County Chairman Dale Strong said the county simply doesn’t have. Instead, commissioners decided to join a statewide insurance network that 50 other county governments also participate in.
“In joining with this large group, it does not provide for spouses when their husbands die or their wives die,” said Strong. “So that’s where we are, how do we do this.”
Commissioners reviewed their options at Wednesday’s work session, but a clear answer has yet to emerge. Jones said he’ll continue to push for reinstatement, but Chairman Strong said other factors will have to be considered.
WHNT ends with this curious note:
Widows of retired county employees still receive 18 months of Cobra coverage after their regular health insurance coverage expires.
That’s true, but only if the plan is still in place, and only if they can afford to pay the full price for it. If the plan no longer exists, and the new plan doesn’t include eligibility for spouses or widows, it’s not clear how COBRA would work for them. Even if they had access to a different plan through COBRA, it will be both more expensive overall and much more expensive for the widows as COBRA requires consumers to pay the full retail price for those plans. (I used COBRA for nearly 18 months myself after leaving my former career to work full time in new media.) If they are on fixed incomes already and on the edge of poverty, as these commissioners note, then COBRA will be nothing more than a bitter joke to these widows.
This is, of course, an anecdote involving just one county and a few dozen widows. How many other counties — and businesses — had to make this same decision? How many other widows got the shaft this year?