January 23, 2017
Obamacare Cancels Big Bird's Health Insurance?

The Obamacare implementation reportedly means that employees of a Sesame Street theme park -- including presumably whoever plays Big Bird there -- will lose their healthcare coverage and will be shifted to healthcare exchanges.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, "Last year, Big Bird's job security was thrust into the political spotlight.This year, it's his health insurance."

You may remember the hyped up controversy -- and it seems even more silly now that it did then -- in the 2012 presidential election campaign when GOP nominee Mitt Romney said that while he loved Big Bird and Sesame Street, he would pull taxpayer funding for the show if he were elected president rather than borrow money from China to finance it.

Sesame Place, the amusement park in question, employs about 1,600 workers and is said to be the number one tourist destination in Bucks County, Pa.

Parent company SeaWorld confirmed that "company was cutting the weekly work limit for part-time employees from 32 to 28 hours," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, but without indicating in any way whether Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, was responsible for the hours reduction.

The company also announced, however, that it was ending health insurance coverage for part-time and seasonal employees in 2014 because the insurance plan does not comply with the Obamacare minimum coverage requirements..

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents the Bucks County area where Sesame Place is located, explained on his website that "Within the past few weeks, countless neighbors employed by Sesame Place have been told their hours will be cut back, presumably to comply with the crushing costs and regulations associated with the so-called Affordable Care Act. Adding insult to injury, they are being told that their healthcare is being terminated because of the law. This is just happening in my district; it's a trend we're seeing nationwide."

Fitzpatrick followed up with a letter to President Obama expressing grave concerns about the Sesame Place situation, noting that the president promised that consumers that if they liked their existing coverage, they could keep it. Fitzpatrick also asked the president to postpone the individual mandate by one year inasmuch as he already postponed the employer mandate until 2015. Fitpatrick's letter said he continues to favor a repeal and replace for Obamacare because "the law is hurting real people in my district and around the country."

Separately, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the healthcare exchange software "can't reliably determine how much people need to pay for coverage, according to insurance executives and people familiar with the program... 'There's a blanket acknowledgment that rates are being calculated incorrectly,' said one senior health-insurance executive who asked not to be named. " The federal government paid a contractor $88 million to develop the software. The healthcare exchanges or marketplaces where uninsured persons will shop for coverage are supposed to be up and running in five days.

Although the employer mandate as noted above has been postponed for one year, many employers around the country have put their hiring plans on the back burner, or have decided to downgrade workers into part-time status, to avoid the Obamacare mandate entirely that applies to companies with 50 or more full-time workers. Obamacare defines full-time work as 30 or more hours per week.

Insurers have already warned of steep insurance premium increases flowing from Obamacare implementation. Some covered businesses have already reached the conclusion that it might be more cost effective to drop employee health coverage completely even for full-time workers and pay the Obamacare employer penalty instead when it kicks in.

[Image via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com]