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Obamacare in Maine

"RE: Changes to the 2014 Verso Health Benefits Program," a memo sent to all employees of Verso Paper from Kenny D. Sawyer, V.P. Human Resources.

The VP explains "...our benefits team has worked closely with our health care providers to mitigate increased costs..." of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Let's savor that phrase for a moment—"mitigate increased costs."

Here are some other key phrases in the document:
"...implement a resulting premium increase..."
"...decreasing our health care offerings..."
"...co-insurance payments will be adjusted from 90% to 80%..."
"...increase in out-of-pocket maximums..."
"...you will see a premium increase around 3.5%..."

In summary, for Verso Paper employees Obamacare means increases and decreases. The increases are all about their cost; the decreases are all about their coverage. On another front, NBC News tells us that Loren Goodridge, who owns 21 Subway franchises, including one in Kennebunk, is cutting hours for 50 workers to no more than 29 hours a week to avoid triggering the Obamacare provision mandating health insurance coverage to employees who work 30 hours or more per week. Mr. Goodridge has this to say: "To tell somebody that you've got to decrease their hours because of a law passed in Washington is very frustrating to me."

The TV network reports the Subway magnate's experience as typical "Employers around the country, from fast-food franchises to colleges, have told NBC News that they will be cutting workers' hours below 30 a week because they can't afford to offer the health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare."

Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) has this to say: "You'll see tremendous impact as workers have their hours reduced and their incomes reduced. The facts are already starting to show up."

Hansen, along with the Teamsters, and UNITE-HERE presidents have sent a letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi which begins: "When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat. Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class."

The UFCW claims 1.2 million members including those in Local 791, which covers Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. UNITE HERE represents 251,000 workers in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries throughout the U.S. and Canada, including members of Locals 406 in Saco and 486 in Bangor. The Teamsters claim 1.4 members, including those in Local 340 in Portland.

Jason Furman, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, dismisses all such "anecdotal evidence." He sees "no systematic evidence that the Affordable Care Act is having an adverse impact on job growth or the number of hours employees are working. ... " He boldly asserts that "nearly 90 percent of the gain in employment has been in full-time positions."

In contrast Keith Hall, a senior researcher at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, reports that "Over the last six months, of the net job creation, 97 percent of that is part-time work," The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Household Survey shows 963,000 more people reporting that they were employed, and 936,000 of them reported they're in part-time jobs. Hall ran the US Department of Labor's BLS, which puts out monthly job reports, from 2008 to 2012.

Who to believe? I'm taking no position other than to suggest that readers ask around among businessmen they know. There's a point when anecdotal evidence (a.k.a., "experience") grows to a volume that transform it into data.

 

(Professor John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com and can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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