The Spectacle Blog

One Young Woman’s Obamacare Misadventure

By on 5.6.14 | 5:32PM

Many of the negative effects of Obamacare fall on the shoulders of part-time workers in the service industry. In 2013, Trader Joe's announced it would be discontinuing coverage for part-time workers. Wegmans did the same. Now it seems that Obamacare has devoured the Cheesecake Factory as well.

A survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 63 percent of part-time workers work less than thirty-five hours a week because they could only find part-time jobs, because they are students, or because they are taking care of a family member. The part-time workforce encompasses mostly middle- and lower-class Americans taking a secondary job to subsist.

Tina Cordova, a thirty-year-old part-time employee of The Cheesecake Factory in Virginia, is one such American. Because she worked as a contract employee during the day, Cordova was not offered health care as part of her employment package. She elected to wait tables at night to augment her income and was relieved to find that there was a health care option for part-time employees. As she remembers, her company health care plan made sense: “It paid an $85 premium for a plan with copays decently priced $15 for prescriptions and $20 for doctors visits.”

In 2012, David Overton, CEO of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain, predicted that Obamacare would be very costly: “I believe most people will have to [raise prices] or cheapen the product.” What he didn’t mention is that there is a convenient third and fourth way out for businesses: They can either lay off part-time workers or dump their employees on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges.

In the fall of 2013, Cordova received a memo regarding the company-wide decision that the Cheesecake Factory would no longer offer plans to part-time employees starting in January of 2014—the famed start date for Obamacare coverage. The memo instructed employees to go to the ACA website for new coverage options.

When the Obamacare website went live in October of 2013, Cordova tried and failed to log on every day for the first week. Two weeks later, she was able to access the information she needed. “The cheapest plan was $170 in premiums and it offered way less services. I didn’t qualify for a subsidy,” she recalled.

These presumed taxpayer subsidies are not a discount, but rather a belated refund to be paid concurrently with one’s tax return. Anyone who has ever had to deal with the IRS for an audit or follow-up on a misplaced tax return knows they are often worse than the DMV on a Saturday. The IRS is already a sub-par middleman. Why are we giving them more power? For the government, this withheld subsidy means another source of interest-free loans to pad the gaping $17.5 trillion hole in our economy.

Cordova ended up settling for a non-ACA plan with a $169 premium and slightly higher copays. Hers is a sad story of an individual paying too much for too little because of government intervention in the private market. Obamacare, notably ridiculous in its attempts at marketing and PR, needs a more realistic slogan. Obamacare: Making the less fortunate worse off since 2010.

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