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The Impact of Obamacare on My Town

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 16, 2012 9:44 AM |

Have you already started to see and feel the impact of Obamacare on your healthcare plans specifically and your family budget overall? I am drawn to this topic today based on a message put out just yesterday by the lead selectman in our town. He writes,

We view the cost of health insurance and the new federal taxes and regulations that have been imposed on us to be unsustainable.  We cannot sit idly by during the next few years.  We have and will continue to take affirmative actions to lower our future costs.

Clearly our employees will be asked to increase their share of these costs to the extent possible. We will also review our health plans to see what changes can be made to lower coverage and thus lower our costs.  We will also seriously consider the option of eliminating health insurance as a benefit the Town offers to our employees. We will also make operational changes in the way we do business to mute as much of these costs as we can.  The most obvious operational change is the use of part time employees.  Part time staff do not receive health insurance benefits and this cost avoidance measure will always be a consideration.

Another action that we have taken in the past and will now consider anew is a decrease in the total number of positions employed by the Town.  Since 2008 the Town’s (not including the School District) number of full time employees has dropped from 822 to 769.

To sum up the steps we are taking and will consider to address this looming problem:

>Increase the employees share of the cost of healthcare

>Decrease our claims history through wellness programs and making our employees better consumers of this costly benefit

>Redesign the healthcare plan to lower the services offered and thus the costs of the plan

>Hire more part-time and fewer full-time employees to provide governmental services

>Decrease the total number of positions that we employ and accept the consequent decrease in the service levels that we provide

>Eliminate providing healthcare insurance altogether and pay the tax built into the healthcare law

Finally, a few editorial comments on the law and the process followed for its adoption.  Obamacare was passed by Congress in 2010 and is over 2,000 pages in length.  Few, if any members of Congress had the opportunity to read, let alone understand the implications of all of its many titles and sections.

I think most people would agree that the sections of the law that refer to covering our young people to age 26 and the new prohibition against the denial of insurance based upon pre-existing conditions are worthy and positive measures.  However, our lawmakers did not need 2,000 pages to cover just these changes.  What they did need 2,000 pages was to intersperse new taxes throughout and to impose new obligations and requirements that will make doing business and managing governmental services in the United States even more of a challenge.

These taxes, requirements and obligations were not clear at the time of the passage of the law and in some cases are not clear even today.  Certainly the U.S. Congress did not debate these new requirements and they did not have the benefit of any kind of an impact analysis on what the new law would mean for their constituents.  The vetting of such an important piece of legislation was inadequate and the consequences will now be felt by everyone for many years.

I think the economic and human impact of the law will be unfortunate for many people.  While the town is facing an estimated $30 million in new costs, our employees may have to face the loss of this important benefit.  I urge our Federal legislators and the President to return to the negotiating table and develop a law and a system that keeps the good while not punishing those entities that have for many years provided this important benefit.

More pink slips, increased taxes, and declining services do not do a lot for economic growth and job creation. Is Obamacare the best we can do? Is Obamacare little more than a “take actions first, ask questions later” public policy?

Can readers weigh in on the impact of this legislation in their towns?

Navigate accordingly.

Larry Doyle

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

  • Rob Phillips

    Obamacare is an albatross on this country and its people. I speak from experience on this one as I just received the notification from my employer today that we can now enroll for next year’s “benefits”. Knowing that my bi-weekly contributions went up 263% last year, I cringe at the thought of reviewing this year’s changes.

    Our company recently had a large RIF (Reduction In Force) that I can only assume had to do with rising benefits costs. The company laid off hundreds of repair technicians in favor of subcontracting out their work at hourly rates comparable to what we were paying those techs in the first place, so the only cost recovery I can see has to be in the benefits that our company would have otherwise paid to those now unemployed technicians, especially in the unionized areas that we operate.

    As a family man, it is infuriating to have to worry about and pay for legislation like Obamacare day in and day out. My daughter is somewhat developmentally delayed and has been seeing all sorts of specialists her entire life (5 years) and will likely continue to see them going forward. We just found out she may need growth hormones in the very near future and that she may need to be on them for 8 – 10 years. I cannot imagine how we will be able to afford that for her, nor can I bear the thought of having to explain to her later in life why we couldn’t afford it if it comes down to that.

    My mother, who has MS, used to pay about $1,200/ month for the inject-able medication she needs to control it. $1,200 covered 14 total shots. The price since she started using that particular injection has shot up to over $3,000/ month for those same 14 shots. She is retired, on a very fixed income and didn’t even have insurance for over a year just recently, but what choice does she have except to pony up the dough for her meds?

    Obamacare isn’t even fully implemented and it is already wreaking havoc on our healthcare system and those who rely on it.

    • Maurice Ross

      With respect, you are mistaken to blame Obama care for these costs, and you should be blaming your employer. The main provisions of Obama care–including the insurance exchange programs, do not kick in until 2014. You and your mother are experiencing the last years of cost increases prior to implementation of Obama-care. Once implemented, Obama care will begin to reduce costs–and statistics show that the rate of growth has already decreased. Unfortunately, growing health care costs are a major problem for everyone, but to blame Obama care is to make a huge mistake. As an attorney familiar with the 2000 pages I can assure you that republications are grossly misleading the public on this.

  • Maurice Ross

    Larry: With respect, your town selectman is misplaced in blaming Obama-care. The main provisions of the new health law are not effective until 2014. As someone familiar with the fine print in the 2000 page bill, it is clear beyond question that Obama care will reduce health care costs in the long-term–already the rate of growth has decreased. Local governmental cities and towns are under great economic strain primarily because of a shortfall of revenues. To blame Obama care for this is silly—and factually inaccurate. The supply side tax cut policies of the Bush administration is what got us in this mess and to blame Obama care is misguided (to say the very least).

    • LD

      Maurice,

      Is Obamacare a convenient excuse and cover for companies and/or municipal leaders to make decisions that would otherwise be forced upon them? I gather that we could debate that until the cows come home. This said, the question regarding future health care costs is also a great unknown. What we do know is that companies and municipalities are making decisions right now that directly and indirectly impact the lives of a whole host of people.

      One other point of interest on this red hot topic. A very involved individual in my town wrote the following recently,

      If you like going to the DMV, you will love Obamacare! Personally, I do not want the government in the examining room with my doctor and me. I have been told by friends who are doctors that they have been advised that under Obamacare, when they see a patient, they will be required to send the diagnosis directly to a board in Washington, using a hand held computer/device.

      They will then receive three or four options for courses of treatment that they must follow, whether they agree or not. If they do not follow the dictates of the Board, they will be fined $100,000 for the first violation. With the second violation, the doctor will go to jail!

      As for keeping our own insurance, we have already lost ours thanks to Obamacare! We were dropped because our company is too small. We had to find another plan that is more expensive for less coverage.

      Any doctors in the house?

  • Annie

    I have a question. I have been seeing Obama ads that say cutting planned parenthood funds would have a direct effect on cancer screenings for women. In the debate tonight Obama reiterated this.

    I thought provisions for preventative screenings were already being implemented under Obamacare. Am I wrong?

  • Annie

    In answer to question at top of blog. Our health care has gone up significantly, though I can’t say the exact percentage.

    I haven’t seen this $3,600.00 tax break Obama has claimed I, as a middle class American, got either. I’ve been asking everyone I know and have yet to find a working, middle class person who knows what he is talking about.

  • Bill

    Obamacare is like a minefield with all sorts of unknown, unexploded financial and other bombs yet to go off.






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