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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.

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