Monday, May 4, 2015

Let's blame Obamacare for everything

Two major organizations announced significant changes in their health insurance benefits last week. They will no longer cover the spouses of employees who are eligible for benefits from their own employer. The reason given for the moves? Obamacare, of course.

Let’s blame Obamacare for everything

Two major organizations announced significant changes in their health insurance benefits last week. They will no longer cover the spouses of employees who are eligible for benefits from their own employer.

United Parcel Service will implement the change for white-collar workers. The University of Virginia will implement it for everyone.

The reason given for the moves? Obamacare, of course.

UPS explained in a memo to employees, “Since the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide affordable coverage, we believe your spouse should be covered by their own employer – just as UPS has a responsibility to offer coverage to you, our employee.” The memo goes on to declare, “This change is consistent with the way many large employers are responding to the costs associated with the Health Reform legislation.”

More coverage
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Have a question about the healthcare law? Ask our expert

The University of Virginia blamed Obamacare for adding $7.3 million to its health care costs next year.

So, are we seeing the destructive effects of Obamacare on employment coverage that some have predicted?

Opponent of the law certainly think so. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee declared that American families are “coming face-to-face with the stark reality that they will lose the coverage they have and like.”

The opponents are right about one thing. Many Americans are, in fact, losing health coverage they have and like. But they have been facing that reality for many years – since long before Obamacare became law.

Companies have been dropping and changing their health benefits for well over a decade. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the percentage of employers offering coverage dropped from 66% in 1999 to 59% in 2009, the year before Obamacare was enacted. And the percentage of workers with traditional indemnity coverage (coverage with no managed care) fell from 10% to 1% during that time.

Premiums for employer coverage have risen by 80% over the last decade. However, Kaiser’s analysis also found that they rose only modestly last year. Premiums for family coverage rose by 4% and for individual coverage by 5%. Obamacare may actually be helping to reduce the rate of health care cost inflation.

It is always tempting to find a scapegoat when making an unpopular decision. Reducing health benefits is never popular, and Obamacare is an easy target. With confusion about the law still rampant, false assertions can readily gain traction. 

Health benefits have been changing for years. During the next few years, you may lose coverage you have and like. But there is a good chance your coverage would have changed had Obamacare never taken effect.

This is not to deny that Obamacare will fundamentally transform American health care in many ways. However, the health care system would have fundamentally changed with or without it.

Blaming the law for every change we see just adds more misinformation to a program that is already widely misunderstood.

From Obamacare to Medicare to managed care, read more of The Field Clinic here >>

About this blog

The Field Clinic reports and analyzes health care laws, government policies, and political trends that are transforming the care we receive and the way we pay for it. Read more about our panel of bloggers here.

This blog is produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health-policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Portions of this blog may also be found on and in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

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Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
Jeffrey Brenner, MD Founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Medical Director of the Urban Health Institute at Cooper University Healthcare
Andy Carter President & CEO, The Hospital & Healthsystem Assoc. of Pa.
Robert B. Doherty Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Public Policy American College of Physicians
David Grande, MD, MPA Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Tine Hansen-Turton Chief Strategy Officer of Public Health Management Corporation
Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH Director of Health Policy Program at the Jefferson School of Population Health
Antoinette Kraus Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network
Laval Miller-Wilson Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project
David B. Nash, MD, MBA Founding Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health
Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D. Professor of Health Care Management, Business Economics and Public Policy at The Wharton School
Howard J. Peterson, MHA Managing Partner of TRG Healthcare, a national healthcare consulting firm
Paula L. Stillman, MD, MBA Healthcare consultant with special expertise in population health and disease management
Elizabeth A. W. Williams Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer for Independence Blue Cross
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